Cut number of meetings to cut costs | Editorial

The Friday Harbor Town Council meets today at 5:30 p.m. for a budget work session. The meeting is open to the public.

This meeting is a continuation of an earlier meeting, in which the Town Council discussed ways to cut personnel expenses 20 percent in order to help balance the 2010 budget. Cuts to programs and projects are proposed.

Here’s what’s proposed among personnel: Jerry Gates of the Street Department would not be replaced when he retires in February after 36 years of service. Neither would Warren Jones, retiring in January as zoning coordinator. Hours for Systems Administrator Steve Dubail, Fire Training Officer Frank Chaffee and Town Administrator King Fitch would be reduced from full-time to 4/5. Historical Preservation Officer Sandy Strehlou and Permit Technician Roxanna Zalmanek would be reduced from 4/5 to 3/5.

Fitch is discussing with the employees union the alternative of employee-wide furloughs, which would be scheduled around the holidays; for example, instead of a three-day weekend, an employee would get a four-day weekend with one of the days unpaid.

One alternative to cutting hours has not been considered: The council should help shoulder some of the burden.

Each council member is paid $85 a meeting for up to four meetings a month; the mayor is paid $148 per meeting. That’s for each noon and 5:30 p.m. session, the first and third Thursday of each month. If the council met once every other Thursday, it would reduce its costs $13,752. This is particularly appropriate since council members have wage-earning day jobs and do council service largely as volunteers.

When he left town government after service as councilman and mayor, Bill La Porte said he thought the council could reduce the number of meetings to once each first and third Thursday. The council has some tough cuts to make. Reducing its own costs, if just until the economy improves, should be part of the equation.

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