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Slowik joins mayoral budget summit

Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik and a dozen other Western Washington state mayors were selected to attend a financial summit in Seattle on Thursday, Oct. 23.

Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman called the meeting, which will focus on one concern shared by many cities across the nation: a budget shortfall.

“These are the most difficult financial times I’ve seen in my career,” Bozeman said. The Bremerton mayor isn’t new to the game. In fact, his mayoral experience spans 13 years.

“This is the first time we’ve seen no increase in revenues in 30 years in the Northwest,” he said. “And our expenditures continue to increase with the rising cost of health care.”

But Slowik is keeping his cool over Oak Harbor’s budget gap, which currently stands at less than $100,000.

“As a businessman, you deal with tough times,” Slowik said. “It’s not overwhelming to me because it’s something that I’ve dealt with my whole life.”

“I consider (the summit) part of my learning curve,” he said of his opportunity to attend the meeting.

Finance Director Doug Merriman will join Slowik at the summit.

Slowik is hopeful that the meeting will spur positive action.

“Maybe as a group we can influence the state Legislature to do something about the failing infrastructure.”

One of Slowik’s campaign promises was to dedicate more money to the city’s infrastructure, a promise he plans to keep.

“I want to put more money to hard infrastructure upgrades — sewer, streets, water and arterials,” he said.

“It’ll be interesting to hear from the other cities,” he said, especially Bremerton, a waterfront city that faces many of the same stormwater and pollution issues as Oak Harbor.

Bozeman expects the confluence of ideas at the summit will produce helpful suggestions on how to best deal with the current financial crisis.

“I’m hopeful that I will hear something I haven’t thought of to balance the budget,” he said.

The mayor’s dedication to the budget-balancing process is making Oak Harbor’s immediate financial look better by the day.

Originally, the city was short $2,472,000. After the first round of cuts, presented at a special budget meeting on Sept. 30, the gap was reduced to $882,000. The city budget is currently less than $100,000 in the hole, and Slowik is confident that the budget will be balanced by the next special budget meeting on Oct. 27 from noon to 3 p.m. at City Hall.

“I’m confident we’ll close the gap. We’ve been working on it almost daily for at least a month,” he said.

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