- City Manager
The Council, by an affirmative vote of a majority of all its members, appoints a City Manager for an indefinite term and fixes the compensation. The Manager shall be appointed solely on the basis of executive and administrative qualifications. The City Manager need not be a resident of the City or State at the time of appointment, but may reside outside the City while in office only with the approval of the Council.
The Kent City Charter was amended by the voters in 1975 to allow for the Council-City Manager form of government. This type of government allows the Kent City Council to set policy and hire a chief executive officer, known as the City Manager, to administer this policy.
Message from the City Manager: Testing Our Limits During the COVID-19 Pandemic
One of the unexpected challenges of the virus has been having to mentally ramp up every day, preparing for the worst, steeling yourself against apocalyptic headlines -- all the while wondering when the tidal wave of local cases that has been lurking behind every forecast will unleash its pandemic spores all over us.
Living with that foreboding sense of doom is really hard, maybe even harder than staring the enemy in the eye when it’s at our front door -- but Iet’s not test that theory. Instead let’s stay grateful that the number of cases in Kent have been relatively low.
I’m nostalgic for some old fashioned community problems that we can roll up our sleeves and actually fix. The virus has been everywhere and nowhere at the same time, testing our patience and leaving everyone’s nerves on edge.
Since the arrival of the pandemic we’ve told City employees that whether they’re working the front line or behind the scenes, caring for their state of mind is as important as caring for their physical health.
That same message applies to everyone in the Kent community that puts on their masks each day, gloves-up, and has made six feet of social distancing the new standard in personal space. It can be exhausting looking out for each other like this but your City emergency crews are extremely grateful for the care you’ve shown to your neighbors, and sincerely believe that you’ve saved more lives than they will in this crisis.
With so many news stories of business closings and layoffs, it’s only a matter of time before that economic rip tide undercuts the City budget. As we brace for impact, the questions we’re trying to answer are when will it hit, how big will it be, how long will it last, and what can we do to prepare?
This kind of massive shuttering of local businesses is unprecedented and that makes it frustratingly unpredictable in terms of when it will hit our budget and how big a loss it will produce. As a staff we’re investing a lot of time into developing predictions - but like the virus forecasts, the financial scenarios are so broad that at times they feel a bit futile. Just like there’s a big difference in responding to 10,000 fatalities a day and 1,600 a day - there’s an equally big difference between preparing for a $2 million budget hit and a $5 million budget hit.
With City Council’s guidance, we believe now is the time for smart, strategic steps to further secure our financial position and ensure the sustainability of everything we’ve worked so hard to accomplish; it’s not time yet for radical disruptions that risk undoing the strategic policies we put into practice over the last 10 years that worked well for Kent.
Some cities in our area immediately started laying off employees and while those measures offer immediate relief -- we think the price on community services and community priorities is too high to start there. None of us saw financial challenges of this magnitude heading our way but I believe we’ll benefit from all the measures we’ve put in place to diversify our income and expense streams -- so that big blows may set us back, but not knock us out.
Navigating this crisis is going to require a lot of right-sizing of our budget. Borrowing from the virus strategy, our goal is to flatten the financial curve as much as possible through early steps to stabilize our finances, reduce any discretionary financial burdens heading into the crisis, and lighten our load so that we can be nimble enough to ride the storm out when it hits.
What does all that mean on a day to day basis right now? It means we’re trying to zero-in on where we’re most vulnerable to income tax losses and come up with appropriate early intervention strategies.
Obviously we’re in the middle of a public health crisis so we have to be careful not to reduce our emergency capabilities and we have to be fluid enough to ramp them up if the virus conditions worsen locally. All those moving parts make a budget reduction strategy pretty complicated.
We’ve set an internal starting point of coming up with 20% reductions in every department. That won’t solve the problem but it’s a good start and it gets us thinking strategically about what’s most important to hold on to and what can we defer in terms of our services, travel, training, etc., all in the spirit of saving money.
Years of frugal budget management allowed us to put reserve funds in the bank and we will need those funds to be part of the gap solution. However, once spent they’re gone, so we need to preserve them as long as possible since we don’t know when the economic crisis will end. It could be years before we bounce back so we will be stingy in the use of our reserves but they will definitely be part of the mix.
Based on the early predictions, we’re thinking that the combination of cuts in non-essential services (the 20% reductions), deferments in less essential capital purchases, changes in borrowing strategies, reallocations of some funding, and rationing reserve funds may be enough to buy us the time needed for the economy to start to recover.
Our goal is to preserve our investment in community priorities, ensure the continuity of City services, and honor our commitment to City employees who have been critical to keeping us safe during the pandemic. Financial sacrifices will be made but our focus on serving Kent will not waver.
In the ultimate act of community, we stand together by standing apart. Stay well.