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Tightening of The Belt Starts For Yakima Says City Manager O’Rourke

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Tony O’Rourke hasn’t been here long, but he’s certainly being proactive in his role as city manager. At Tuesday evening’s city council meeting he proposed multiple long-term strategies to help better balance the budget.

“The city just like any family has been adversely impacted by the recession. We have to learn to live with basically flat and declining revenue sources. We have to pull in our belt and recognize this isn’t a temporary situation, probably permanent,” says Tony O’Rourke.

Yakima tax payers need not worry, the city isn’t planning to raise your taxes to make up the difference.

“We again have to live within our means and reduce our costs so that we’re frugal and financially sustainable,” he said.

O’Rourke is proposing serious cuts like freezing or shutting down vacant positions, which would save the city $200,000 in 2013 and half a million by 2015. Turnover is currently about 4% and by instituting a 2% vacancy rate, the city would be looking at another $800,000 in savings by 2013 and up to $1 million by 2016. Another option would be to change staffing of the airport fire service and eliminate the 3 currently vacant positions-cutting out another $200,000 a year. O’Rourke also wants to reduce health benefits of employees and managed competition of city services. He says it sounds like a lot, but it’s all in an effort to save jobs.

“If we tackle the issues now in a prudent long term perspective, we can effectively balance the budget and continue to provide high quality services and not wait for a crisis or for the situation to get worse and then more drastic measures will be needed,” said Yakima’s city manager.

O ‘Rourke says the public will actually see a benefit. Not only will the city be living within its means, but he’s already dedicated some projected revenue for much-needed road repairs. Parts of the plan could be in place as early as later this year, while others would be implemented over time.

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