City budget reduced a bit for 2013-14

Sean C. Morgan

The proposed 2013-14 budget for the city of Sweet Home increases the parks staff with a new half-time employee.

Other than that, the budget maintains municipal service levels.

The total budget is $18.5 million, down about 15 percent from $22 million in 2012-13. Total expenditures, excluding transfers among city funds, contingencies and ending fund balances, are down 23 percent, from $17.2 million to $13.1 million.

The difference mainly involves capital expenditures in the wastewater system to fight inflow and infiltration in the sewer system. The city has no large inflow and infiltration projects planned this year. Inflow and infiltration is storm water that enters the city’s sewer system through deteriorating pipes and cross connections to storm drainage. During heavy rainstorms, the storm water can overload the wastewater treatment plant and force the bypass of highly diluted but untreated wastewater into the South Santiam River.

The city has had an ongoing agreement with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to decrease inflow and infiltration, and Public Works Director Mike Adams expects that the city will have to make improvements at the treatment plant next.

Capital outlays in the budget for 2013-14, the fiscal year beginning on July 1, are down $3.9 million, by 58 percent.

The draft document includes four assumptions about revenue, said City Manager Craig Martin in his budget message to the Budget Committee, which met on Thursday, April 18.

Among them, property values will probably remain flat, with no increase or decrease in property tax revenue, Martin said. Property tax compression losses are expected to remain at 33 percent, about $900,000.

Compression is the term for taxes that remain unlevied due to property tax limitations. The losses primarily affect local option levies in the Sweet Home area, which means they primarily affect the police and library budgets.

“The city continues to work with representatives of the League of Oregon Cities in statewide efforts to address these property tax shortfalls as well as look at alternative funding options for our police and library services,” Martin said.

The city expects about $14,000 less in franchise fees, court fees, shared state revenue and rental property, and no increases in water or wastewater fees are expected in the 2013-14 budget.

Among expenditures, the budget shows an increase for the parks position but no changes in salaries, which are the subject of labor negotiations for general city employees and Police Department employees.

The city has $21.5 million remaining in outstanding debt. Some $11.7 million remains in three low-interest and no-interest loans from the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund Loan Program. The funds were used for inflow and infiltration reductions. Another $9.8 million is outstanding in two Oregon Economic and Community Development Loans. The funds were used to build a new water treatment plant in 2009.

The city paid off water system improvements from 1992 in December and will pay off wastewater treatment plant improvements from 1993 in December 2013, a payment of $62,000.

Employee insurance benefits are expected to increase by 7 percent for medical coverage and 4 percent for dental coverage.

Police officer Public Employees Retirement System contributions are expected to increase by less than 1 percent, and no increases are expected in the general employees’ ICMA retirement rates.

“The proposed budget I present to you tonight continues to assume a relatively flat economic recovery in Sweet Home,” Martin said. “Property taxes and fees related to city services remain at conservative expectations while we continue efforts to mitigate increases in costs that are outside our control.

“Our saving efforts are helping to rebuild fund balances and contingencies, ‘our rainy day funds’ in this proposed budget. While some of these savings may appear to be minimal in the overall budget, each dollar saved today will help fund future projects or be used to mitigate shortfalls, which may occur, for needed operations in the future.”

Present at the Budget Committee meeting were members Anay Hausner, Zach Lincoln and Leona West and councilors Craig Fentiman, Bruce Hobbs, Greg Mahler, Scott McKee Jr., Dave Trask and Mayor Jim Gourley.

Absent were members Andrew Allen, Susie Ford, Stefanie Gatchell and Gerritt Schaffer and Councilor Marybeth Angulo.

The Budget Committee will meet next at 6:30 on May 7, May 8 and May 9 to review and approve the budget. A fourth meeting is scheduled for May 13 if it is needed to complete the review. Once approved, the budget goes before the City Council for adoption by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

For more information about the budget or the Budget Committee, contact the city manager’s office at (541) 367-8969 or stop by City Hall, 1140 12th Ave.