Proposed city budget includes new department, rearranging

City staff have proposed moving Public Works functions to City Hall and the creation of a new department in the proposed 2001-02 budget.

Public Works engineering and administration would move to City Hall and the building division would be consolidated with planning at City Hall to create a “one-stop permit center.”

Currently, City Manager Craig Martin said, “customers must drive back and forth between the Public Works office on Ninth Avenue and City Hall to conduct their business. This new arrangement should provide several benefits, one of which will be increased customer satisfaction due to coordinated integrated information and services between planning, building, engineering and the Finance Department.”

The municipal court and council chamber will be moved to the modular unit occupied by the Police Department after the department moves to its new building.

“If you were to come to City Hall on court days, you would find people lining up down the hall and out the front doors,” Martin said. “Defendants who are unable to crowd into the courtroom must sit in the hallway hoping to hear their names called. Customers who come to City Hall to pay their utility bills on those days have to wade through a sea of court customers.

“In addition to the overcrowding on court days, citizens who wish to attend council meetings in the evenings also find themselves sitting in the hallway as the room only allows 37 people for maximum occupancy. Many meetings have had to be moved to the Fire Hall, Community Center and even the high school cafeteria to facilitate larger attendance.”

Changes in the budget this year include the departure of the fire department, which is now a separate district with its own budget starting July 1.

With the completion of the new police facility and the departure of the fire department, the 2001-02 budget will have a reduction of $1,633,549 from the 2000-01 budget. Of that, $1,515,000 of the decrease is directly due to the completion of the new police facility, and $939,276 is from the loss of the fire department budget.

Without these decreases, the 2001-02 budget would be seeing a net increase of $820,727 over the previous year.

Although it appears in the budget summary sheets that the city enjoyed a decrease in the cost of personnel services, Martin said, without considering the fire and ambulance personnel, the city actually experienced a net increase of $412,270, a 13 percent increase over 2000-01. Approximately 21 percent, $85,456, of this increase is a direct result of budgeting for an equivalent total of 2.5 additional full-time equivalent positions in the Public Works Department to help meet the City Council goals in response to the water-wastewater rate study conducted last year. Approximately 24 percent, $100,668 is the result of implementing the final step of a 1999 council resolution and the consolidation of the planning and building functions into a department.

The balance of the personnel increases can be found in the increased cost of establishing fair and equitable compensation packages for city employees, Martin said. By contract, general employees will receive a 3 percent cost-of-living increase, police officers will receive 6.5 percent and dispatchers will receive 5.5. percent. Other employees will receive 3 percent, and the municipal judge negotiated a 5 percent increase.

Insurance premiums are expected to increase by about 20 percent, an $83,282 cost to the city.

Jean McKinney was elected chairman of the budget committee, which met Thursday night, for the second year. Jessica Coward was elected vice chairman.

An additional budget committee meeting date has been set so budget committee members can discuss items in the budget. Some complained that last year, there was no time for discussion because the budget was approved immediately following completion of presentations by departments.

Al Culver suggested reserving the last meeting of the budget session for such discussions.

Elmer Riemer said he was concerned because the budget committee decided to go through the whole budget last year before discussion. At the end of the presentations, there was a 10-minute break, then “bam,” the budget was approved.

“There were questions that I knew I had, but it was too late,” Riemer said.

Dates for meetings are May 3, 10, 17 and 24. Meetings start at 6:30 p.m. at the Sweet Home Public Library.