The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

By Sean C. Morgan
Of The New Era 

New detective, crosswalks on budget table


May 10, 2016

The Sweet Home Police Department plans to maintain its current levels of service while the Sweet Home Public Library proposes adding hours on Wednesday and Friday in the city’s 2016-17 proposed budget.

The City of Sweet Home Budget Committee reviewed the two funds during its meeting on May 3. It reviewed proposed Public Works funds on May 4 and will review the proposed General Fund on Wednesday, May 11, with Thursday set aside for an additional meeting if committee members need additional time.

During the May 3 meeting, the Budget Committee declined to approve a request by a City Council member for an additional detective, but it did approve a request by the library director to increase hours beyond those she added in her budget proposal.

The Police Department and Public Library both had their operating levies renewed and increased in November.

Police Department

The Police Department will begin fiscal year 2016-17, which begins on July 1, with $1.26 million in carryover from fiscal year 2015-16, which ends on June 30.

The city plans to collect $1.98 million in property taxes to fund a $3.4 million budget, up from $3.05 million. For the past two years, the city has transferred about $500,000 from the General Fund to prop up the department’s budget. No transfers are proposed for 2016-17.

Police Chief Jeff Lynn is budgeting status quo on salaries, with collective bargaining expected later this year.

At this point, he proposes spending $2.399 million, down from $2.4 million, with the additional revenue as part off the carryover, $926,000, to the following year, 2017-18.

The department proposes spending $2.109 million on personnel, down from $2.135 million, while materials and services increases, from $253,000 to $266,000. Those costs include professional and technical services, memberships, operating supplies, utilities and other expenses.

Capital outlays increase to $24,000, from $18,000, for computer equipment, radios and other equipment.

The department will also transfer $20,000 to reserves to help pay for radio equipment in seven to 10 years.

Last year, the Budget Committee discussed adding an officer, said Councilor Jeff Goodwin. He asked Lynn if staffing was sufficient.

"I think we’re in a pretty good position now,” Lynn said. A minimum of two officers are on nearly all the time. Sergeants help out on patrol, and the school resource officer works patrol during the summer.

"The only thing where I’d like to see additional personnel at some point in time is a detective.”

Linn County has been designated a high-intensity drug trafficking area, Lynn said, and county law enforcement agencies have been working on a new task force to target high-level drug dealers. Each agency is committing officers to the task force, but it won’t be up and running till next year – March or April at the earliest.

The department has made significant impacts on neighborhoods by serving 18 narcotics-related search warrants last year, Lynn said.

"There’s a need there, but I think we can manage. I would like to see us manage and pay our own way, so to speak and then look at it next year. I’d be more comfortable holding off one more year.”

Currently, the city has one detective, one school resource officer, two sergeants and 10 patrol officers, in addition to the chief.

"I understand the desire to be balanced (a balanced budget),” Goodwin said, but added that he hears three concerns in the community: drugs, the condition of the parks and the condition of basic infrastructure.

"Should we put another detective out there this year?” he asked. "We have the funds to do it. Would you be more comfortable with another detective out there busting drug dealers?”

If not the full amount, he said, perhaps the city could fund half a year, adding the position after the council and staff have discussed it and decided the time is right.

The city doesn’t have to add the position right away, he said, but allocating the funding will allow the city the option to hire another detective.

Committee member Dave Holley, a former mayor and City Council member, said he wasn’t necessarily opposed to the idea, but with collective bargaining still ahead, the costs and how they affect the bottom line are uncertain. At the same time, the city is in the first year of a five-year levy.

Goodwin noted that beginning fund balances tend to be substantially larger than budgeted, from 2015-16 to 2016-17, the city budgeted $592,000 in carryover. It’s anticipating an actual figure of nearly $1.3 million.

A detective added halfway through the fiscal year in January would reduce the proposed ending fund balance for 2016-17 from $926,000 to about $881,000, Goodwin said. He suggested increasing the number of officers so the council can add another officer after discussing it further.

"We have the resources now to do this,” he said. "I think the referendum from the voters here is we want more resources for law enforcement. That was an aggressive move to put out a buck 85 increase.”

Unfortunately, said Councilor Bruce Hobbs, he has seen numbers that look large in early years of a levy end up looking small in the later years of a levy as costs increase.

"The danger in that is that you have an officer on board, and you have to lay that officer off,” said Councilor Dave Trask, who also advised caution: "I see both sides of that. I’d just as soon kind of hold off till we get a feel for what we’re going to have,” such as costs from collective bargaining.

The city can hold off until bargaining is complete and then decide whether to add the position this year, Goodwin said. "All we’re doing is creating the option here.”

"Unless we say we’re adding a person to our force in the form of a detective, I don’t have a problem with that,” Holley said. "What I do have a problem with is adding some money in looking out at a coalition that hasn’t even been formed, committing that.”

What this person would be doing hasn’t been discussed yet, he said.

"In essence, it would be just a straight detective position,” Lynn said. The detective would be assigned half-time to the task force.

"If we think the detective position is needed, then allocate for it and then at the time that this becomes a reality the chief comes back to council and says, ‘Look, this is what we have going in county, this is what I would like to do with one of my detectives,’” Holley said.

"I don’t really think that we should budget based on something that might happen. We should budget based on what we need here.”

"And that’s what I was actually pushing for a year ago,” Goodwin said. "Refilling that detective position.”

Several years ago, the department had two full-time police officers. It went to one detective during budget cuts.

"Even if that task force was never formed, we’re still going to have another person on the ground,” Goodwin said.

"If we’re going to allocate money for it, then why not allocate all of it,” Trask said. "Our police chief says he doesn’t think this is necessary right now. Why do something we don’t know we’re actually going to do in the end?”

Committee member Andrew Allen moved to increase funding for a detective by $45,000 and reduce the ending fund balance to pay for it. Goodwin gave a second to the motion.

The committee voted 4-4, and the motion failed. Voting yes were Goodwin, Allen, Brent Gaskey and James Goble. Voting no were Hobbs, Trask, Holley and Diane Gerson.

Sweet Home Public Library

The Sweet Home Public Library’s proposed budget increases from $368,000 to $516,000.

Staffing costs increase from $174,000 to $239,500. Currently, the library has two 30-hour library assistants and an "on-call library assistant.” The two 30-hour assistants will increase to 35 hours, and the on-call assistant will increase to part-time, at least 20 hours.

At Library Director Rose Peda’s request, staffing will increase approximately 20 more hours, allowing the library two more hours on Friday, closing at 5 p.m. instead of 3 p.m. and begin opening on Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Materials and services will increase slightly, from $100,000 to $106,500. This includes a bump in operating supplies, also called the book budget, from $25,000 to $27,000.

The budget increases the library’s contingency fund from $1,000 to $10,000 and transfers $13,000, up from $3,000, to a reserve fund for future improvements to the building’s electrical system, ergonomic improvements for staff and new carpet.

The library budgets a cash carryover of $176,000 to the following year. It budgeted a carryover of $88,500 for the year, but the actual projected carryover will be $183,500 going into 2016-17.

Committee members were concerned about the cost of adding a 20-hour employee so the library could open on Wednesdays.

Finance Director Pat Gray said a 20-hour employee costs about $30,000 due to insurance costs. They are eligible at 20 hours. A 35-hour employee costs about $40,000.

Hobbs and Goodwin said that working out how to increase the hours is something city staff can figure out. Hobbs moved to increase the funding Peda requested, and Goodwin gave a second to the motion.

The committee voted 5-3 to increase funding for staff. Voting yes were Hobbs, Goodwin, Gerson, Allen and Goble. Voting no were Trask, Holley and Gaskey.

Absent from the meeting were councilors Greg Mahler, Ryan Underwood and Mayor Jim Gourley and committee member Gerritt Schaffer.

The committee meets next at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the City Council Chamber inside the City Hall Annex behind City Hall, 1140 12th Ave.


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