Committee keeps new positions in proposed city budget

The city of Sweet Home’s proposed general fund for 2010-11 will include an increase of 1.15 full-time equivalent positions to handle the workload at the Municipal Court and round out the parks maintenance position.

The court position was cut in 2004 when the Budget Committee was looking for money to fill a shortfall in the Police Department budget that arose when the city had significant decreases in property values, primarily utility infrastructure.

Finance Director Pat Gray has been filling in since then when needed, she said, and it’s been “very harrowing” trying to do two jobs. Since then, the office has had a couple of employees leave, with other city employees filling in as they can temporarily.

Dave Holley, a member of the Budget Committee, suggested eliminating funding for a clerical position in the Building Division, which would allow a lateral transfer to fill the new position.

“During this past year, there has been an awful lot of effort to finding things for people to do in the building department,” Holley said. He asked city staff members whether the position was necessary and whether they could absorb a cut in funding there.

Community Development Director Carol Lewis, who supervises the Building Division, told the Budget Committee that the position is necessary.

While her department hasn’t been busy with permits, it has had plenty of work to go around, Lewis said. “Is it doable? I would do what we have to do. I would prefer to keep my staff intact.”

The position has assisted with a number of activities within the department, including parks and recreation events, like the Harvest Festival and summer program, said Councilor Scott McKee Jr, noting that it’s activities like those that make Sweet Home a great place to raise his family.

Removing the position would leave the permit technician to pick all of the paperwork for the division, Lewis said. “Something’s going to get dropped. If it gets bounced upstairs (the planning and code enforcement office), something else is going to get dropped.”

Even now, with lower-paying remodeling permits, the city probably wouldn’t meet the 10-day requirement for taking action on residential permits without this position, Lewis said.

At the end of the meeting, the Budget Committee had not reduced the funding, leaving both the Building Division and the proposed increase in Municipal Court funding intact.

The general fund budget is proposed at $3.3 million, up from $2.97 million. On the revenue side, the city is budgeting $1.49 million in its beginning fund balance, carryover from the previous year. That total is up from a budgeted amount of $1.17 million this fiscal year, 2009-10. In previous years, the actual audited beginning fund balance has been larger, at $1.85 million in 2008-09 and $1.72 million in 2007-08. An actual beginning fund balance for 2009-10 is not available yet.

Other funding sources are roughly similar to 2009-10, including taxes, $472,000, up from $454,000; about $1 million in fees; $12,000 in interest down from $43,000; and about $253,000 in administrative charges to other funds.

On the spending side, the budget proposes significant increases in the Municipal Court, from $217,000 to $276,000; parks from $127,000 to $140,500 partially reflecting the increase in the parks maintenance position; and transfers to other funds from $178,000 to $430,000.

The increase in transfer funding is to the city’s building reserve fund, money it saves toward future construction and building projects. It has used this money to help pay for the Police Services Building and the new Public Works maintenance complex off 24th Avenue.

The budget decreases spending in community service programs, from $33,000 to $16,000, reflecting $17,000 in funds that were granted last year to Sweet Home Emergency Ministries and School District 55 for operating the pool. The remaining funds include a pass-through grant from the state to the Senior Center for transportation and funding for Meals on Wheels and the community grants program.

The budget also decreases spending in its non-departmental spending, from $712,000 to $657,000. The decrease is the result of an insurance dividend, about $65,000, resulting from few claims.

Auditing expenses are going from $20,000 to $30,000, and the budget includes a line item, $20,000, for pursuing the creation of an urban renewal district.

Other budget changes in the General Fund are relatively small.

The Budget Committee was scheduled to review its Police Department and library budgets on Tuesday. It will review Public Works at 6:30 p.m. on May 13.