Police budget to replace vehicles

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home Police Department is budgeting to begin replacing patrol cars for the first time since three were destroyed in a pursuit and then replaced in 2013.

City Budget Committee members met Thursday, May 18, to review proposed budgets for the Police Department, the Public Library and special funds. The committee was scheduled to meet Monday evening to discuss various Public Works funds and at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss the General Fund.

After adjustments and the approval of the proposed 2017-18 budget, the council will hold a public hearing and adopt a budget prior to June 30. The 2017-18 budget takes effect July 1.

During the May 18 meeting, Police Jeff Lynn told the Budget Committee that city officials need to begin discussing how to address a looming shortfall.

Library Services Director Rose Peda told the committee that city officials will soon need to start talking about remodeling the library building.

Finance Director Pat Gray told the committee that the city may be able to use loans that have been repaid to the city to help pay for remodeling costs for the new City Hall, kicking off a discussion about alternate use of those funds.

Police Department Budget

The Police Department has proposed a $3,401,469 million budget for 2017-18, a $6,437 increase from the 2016-17 adopted budget of $3,395,032 million. The department had an actual budget of $3.44 million in 2015-16.

Among revenue, the 2016-17 budget anticipates a beginning fund balance of $1.15 million. A beginning fund balance is money that rolls over from the previous budget year, where it is considered an “ending fund balance.”

The budget anticipates $2.1 million in revenue from property taxes, and the School District is providing $42,000 to cover half of the expense of the school resource officer.

Personnel expenses are increasing from a budgeted $2.1 million to $2.35 million in 2017-18. The budget reflects an increase in wages, insurance and retirement benefits and a reduction of a quarter-time janitor.

Code enforcement is moving to the General Fund in 2017-18, but the position, which also includes community services, will remain full time in the Police Services Fund.

Materials and services, which mostly incorporates professional services, utilities and supplies, are increasing from $266,000 to $278,000.

Among those changes, Lynn said, the department cut its janitor position and hired Sunshine Industries to handle janitorial duties.

“We’ve really, as a Police Department, been happy with the services they provide,” Lynn said. “They come in with a crew, and it is all hands on deck. There’s probably 12. They knock it out within an hour, and they’re gone. It’s been fantastic.”

The materials and services portion of the budget also includes increasing repair and maintenance costs, Lynn said. The building is 16 years old and the need for maintenance, especially with the rooftop HVAC units is increasing.

Additionally, the department will replace two patrol vehicles this year, Lynn said. “The age of our vehicles is getting older. We average between 18,000 and 23,000 miles per vehicle per year.”

The lowest mileage on the department’s four patrol vehicles is 99,000 for two units, while the third has 111,000 and the fourth 185,000, Lynn said. One of the department’s lowest-mileage patrol units, an SUV, was wrecked in a recent pursuit.

None of the current patrol cars are newer than 2013. The city replaced three of them with insurance money after a suspect crashed into and totaled them that year.

The department will lease two new SUVs with the all-wheel drive for $39,000 over three years. The AWD capability was helpful for police officers this winter, Lynn said.

The older vehicles will be shuffled into less-demanding roles, Lynn said.

Overall, the department plans to spend $2.7 million in 2017-18, up from $2.47 million this year, leaving a budgeted $697,000 in the ending fund balance.

Long-term projections show the Police Department operating with a deficit by 2020-21.

“You can see there’s a lot of red there,” Lynn said, and that’s something the Budget Committee, the council and the community have to look at.

“The bottom line is we spend more than we make, so our revenues come in below our expenditures,” Lynn said.

“As anybody in their own personal checking account knows, that can’t last for long. Throughout the next year or so, decisions have to be made. Obviously, our budget’s 87 percent personnel, so either our revenue comes up or we have to lower expenses at some point in time in the coming years.”

Equipment is reaching the end of its life, Lynn said. Dispatch consoles are 16 years old and becoming obsolete. Radio equipment is 11 years old and also becoming obsolete. The city will need a plan to replace the radio equipment within the next three years.

“Some of the things we’re looking at this year is we’re looking at evaluating whether we should maintain our own 24/7 dispatch center or whether we should look at contracting out services with another entity,” Lynn said, “Whether it’s Linn County, whether it’s Lebanon Police Department, we have to look at what’s it mean for our community, what’s it mean for our department and how we operate. And what’s it mean financially?”

Public Library Budget

The Library budget is proposed to increase from $516,000 to $529,000 in 2017-18.

The majority of revenue in the budget is from property tax – $296,000. The library will have a beginning fund balance of $193,000, and the budget calls for $20,000 in grant revenue.

The library will cut its weekly hours from 35 to 30 to bolster its ending fund balance, Peda said. Personnel costs decrease from $240,000 to $209,000.

Materials and services increase by $9,500, reflecting an annual fee to a statewide consortium for electronic books and a fee for a countywide consortium that allows inter-library lending.

The consortium, which includes Albany, Linn-Benton Community College, Scio, Harrisburg and Sweet Home, is seeking grant funds to pay the courier fee, Peda said. In the meantime, Sweet Home residents are using the service, and the savings from the program are significant.

Last month, Sweet Home patrons borrowed 249 items, Peda said.

“If you cost those out at an average of $10 a piece, that’s a significant savings to us, and that’s just one month.”

The library will spend a total of $349,000 in 2017-18, down from a budgeted $370,000. It will have an ending fund balance of $180,000, up from a budgeted $146,000.

“One of the things that we will be looking at into the future and just to keep in mind is a remodel on the facility,” Peda said.

“Whether or not we do that remodel all at one time or just in phases, it’s due for a remodel. The building was built in 1969. That’s considerably older. It has one area that people can plug their devices into without causing a tripping hazard. Everybody kind of flocks to that room.”

She said a remodel would upgrade the building’s electrical system and technology infrastructure, along with such things as carpeting and lighting.

Home Rehabilitation Funding

The city has approximately $217,000 in funds repaid from an old housing rehabilitation program.

That money is no longer considered federal, said Finance Director Pat Gray, and the city could consider using it for other projects, such as the new City Hall.

She said she will need to double check the rules before using it on a project like that.

The money originally went to no-interest loans for local residents to repair and rehabilitate their homes. The money was repaid as the homes changed owners.

“That’s quite a bit of money to leave sitting there in the hopes that somewhere down the line you can get another grant that you can apply for,” said Dave Holley, Budget Committee chairman. “So if we can swing the thing to use for our advantage within the city, we should be looking at that.”

“I’m not sure I agree with that,” said Councilor Diane Gerson. “I think there are people in this community that, if this were available and could be administered, would use it. We have people who have blue tarps on their house, for crying out loud, that could use a roof.”

“That’s a good point,” Holley said. “The administration becomes a real problem. Who do you appoint in the city to administer those types of things?”

Councilwoman Lisa Gourley concurred with Gerson and suggested using the money to provide supplies volunteers could use to build new roofs and other projects.

“That raises everybody in their neighborhood,” Gourley said.

“In my opinion, some of these people need to put some sweat equity into this,” said Mayor Greg Mahler.

In any case, it’s something that should come through the council, Holley said, although the committee can make a recommendation.

Councilor Dave Trask said he would like to know more about using it to help pay for remodeling costs at the new City Hall.

Mahler said he would like to know more about using it in the parks system.

Gray said she would check into the ideas further.

For more information about the budget, call City Hall at (541) 367-8969 or visit City Hall at 1140 12th Ave.

Present at the meeting were Bob Briana, Dave Holley, Gerritt Schaffer, Diane Gerson, Lisa Gourley, Greg Mahler and Dave Trask.

Absent were Andrew Allen, Brent Gaskey, Dave Jurney, Susan Coleman, James Goble and Ryan Underwood.