Exit133 is about Tacoma

Task Force Recommends Long-Term Structural Improvements to City of Tacoma’s General Fund Budget

Tacoma, Wash. – In its six-month study of the City of Tacoma’s General Fund budget, the Fiscal Sustainability Task Force has determined that expenditures for current programs and services are growing at a significantly faster rate than revenues.  A report that includes 28 task force recommendations focusing on key components driving this structural imbalance has been presented to the City Council.

“We worked very hard to adopt a 2013-2014 budget that reflects the City’s commitment to strong financial management and responsible spending,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. “Compared to our peer cities, we are mostly on par with our current expenditure levels but this could change if we don’t address cost drivers in the General Fund.”

Highlights of the task force’s recommendations are as follows: 

  • The City must address employee salaries and benefits in order to close its fiscal gap. 
  • The search for efficiencies in the City’s police and fire departments, given their respective sizes, should be a priority.
  • All City departments should search for efficiencies on an ongoing basis.
  • Additional revenues are needed by the City, but additional revenues alone cannot solve the structural imbalance of its General Fund. 
  • Where appropriate, the City should reduce or eliminate tax exemptions and credits, and ensure strong compliance with existing tax codes.
  • The City should sell unused, surplus and non-essential assets, and apply the proceeds to one-time purposes. 
  • The City should pursue opportunities for cost recovery from other agencies and third parties.

“In a nutshell, the cost of current services is growing much faster than City revenues,” said Lyle Quasim, task force chair and co-chair of the Tacoma-Pierce County Black Collective. “The City needs to make it a priority to bring the growth of expenditures and revenues into better alignment, so that we can stabilize service levels for residents and businesses.  There simply aren’t a lot of options available in terms of new revenues.  We need to work harder on collecting revenues from the current tax structure, and look at closing exemptions and credits.”  

The task force is comprised of 18 members from various backgrounds and areas of expertise, and includes residents, business leaders, union representatives and non-profit agency leaders. In order to track the City’s response to their recommendations, task force members will reconvene twice next year. One meeting will be with the City Council during early budget deliberations and the other meeting will be with the City Council and the City Manager prior to the publication of a proposed 2015-16 biennial budget.

"In 2013-2014, the City reset expectations for levels of services to address the $63 million shortfall. As the City prepares to face a projected $26.3 million shortfall in the 2015-2016 biennium and a $38.1 million dollar shortfall in the 2017‐18 biennium, we will be working to find ways to ensure the continued financial health of our General Fund,” said City Manager T.C. Broadnax. “We must also look for ways to address an area not included in the Task Force recommendations – how to combat the decades-long problem of Tacoma’s deteriorating streets and infrastructure.” 


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