Police, Executive, Library budgets all grow in proposal sent to City Council

Benny Westcott

Sweet Home’s Budget Committee unanimously approved a proposed budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year in their May 13 meeting.

That recommendation will be forwarded to the City Council for final approval before the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

In attendance at the budget meeting were city councilors Angelita Sanchez, Susan Coleman, Greg Mahler, Diane Gerson, Dave Trask and Dylan Richards. Citizen budget committee members in attendance were Robert Briana, Derek Dix, Kenneth Hamlin, David Lowman, and Gerritt Schaffer. Councilor Lisa Gourley was absent.

To see the approved budget proposal, visit http://www.sweethomeor.gov/finance/page/budget.

Executive and Legislative Department

City Manager Ray Towry gave a presentation on the executive and legislative department’s portion of the budget.

The department is budgeted $466,273 for the upcoming fiscal year, which is up $141,561 from what was budgeted for the current fiscal year.

The increase is mostly due to the city’s plans to hire an information technology services manager, Towry said. IT services were previously contracted out “to a third party that’s an hour away from us and not necessarily on call. And when they are on call, they’re expensive.”

Towry argued bringing the position in-house is important, “particularly when you have a library that’s open on the weekends and a police department that’s open 24/7.

“We just believe that we need and we can actually do better by bringing the person in house at this point in the time,” he said.

Towry said the hire adds about $120,000 to the executive budget, but noted that there are reductions in technical services line items in other departments’ budgets.

He noted that every department previously paid into the contract of the third party IT administration.

“Those numbers are now being reduced and that is being shifted into the executive department in order to pay for this IT person,” he said.

Towry said that he thinks the move will be a slight savings for the community in the long run.

Library Services Department

Towry also gave the presentation on the Library Services Department, as he currently serves as the interim library director after the retirement of Rose Peda earlier this year.

The proposed budget for the next fiscal year in the library sits at $1,044,848, up $145,803 from the previous proposed budget.

Towry said there are multiple reasons for why the beginning fund balance is “growing rapidly.”

“One is this incredibly hot real estate market that is the Willamette Valley,” he said. “Property values have simply outpaced what we anticipated and compression has lowered more than we anticipated.”

The other reason for the increase is that “we’ve been taking money, and instead of spending it we’ve been holding on to it,” he said. “Because we know that our library building has some needs. So we’re just trying to build a fund up so that we have the capabilities to address those needs when the time comes.”

Police Department

The Police Department is budgeted at $5,795,436 for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, up $981,420 from what was budgeted last year.

Police Chief Jeff Lynn noted that last year his department had a lot of transition in their staffing. The department lost three police officers during that timeframe.

Lynn said that one went to a larger agency up north, and two left law enforcement altogether.

“That left a void that we’re working on filling right now. Two of those were long-tenured employees,” Lynn said.

Lynn also said that on top of that, the department’s longest tenured sergeant of 28 years, Jason Van Eck, is set to retire in July.

“We are currently working diligently to fill those positions and get us back to full staffing,” Lynn said.

The department, which usually has 15 employees, has two open police officer positions currently, as well as one hired officer that is in training.

“He probably has four to six weeks left until he’s out on his own,” Lynn said of the officer in training.

Lynn noted that it takes nine to 18 months to train a police officer “before we’re really confident in them going out there and making decisions for our community.”

In addition, he said “we really take our time to find those right people that will fit our culture and our community, and that have the potential to really serve us well.”

One change in the department that affects the budget is increasing a dispatcher position from a part-time employee position to full time. This would allow the department to have five full-time dispatchers.

The budget also allocates $21,000 for installing video cameras in each of the patrol cars.

“Our goal is to improve transparency and our investigative abilities as best we can,” Lynn said.