Group approves 2023-24 city budget


May 3, 2023

Benny Westcott

Matt Brown, foreground, the city's contracted finance director, speaks at the April 26 budget committee meeting at City Hall.

The Sweet Home Budget Committee on Wednesday, April 26, unanimously approved a proposed $35.4 million city budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

That number marks a $2.7 million increase over last year's adopted budget, while the approved permanent tax rate of $1.4157 per $1,000 and local option levies of $7.4700 per $1,000 remain the same.

"We are fortunate to be financially stable over the next year, and we will be able to complete several capital projects set by the council's goals," City Manager Kelcey Young said.

"We will need to remain conservative in our decision making to ensure we are able to maintain adequate reserves in the event unforeseen revenue losses take place or unanticipated expenses occur."

The cost of personnel services includes what she called "manageable increases" for unrepresented staff, with a 2% cost of living adjustment beginning July 1.

"The city of Sweet Home employees continue to be our most valuable resource in providing high-quality services that our residents deserve," she said.

The proposed general fund budget is $4,836,000, which represents a $279,000 decrease from the 2022-23 budget. According to Young, this decrease in expenditures is required to ensure that the city can maintain a six-month operating reserve over the next fiscal year.

"We must continue to carefully consider our expenditures within the general fund to keep them in line with the council's goals," she said.

The public safety fund's proposed budget is $3.7 million, a $300,000 increase from last year. This uptick is due mostly to an increase in the personnel services line item based on a new union contract and the additional hiring of a police officer and an additional part-time dispatcher.

Other public-safety expenditures include fuel-cost increases, facility maintenance and an additional line for abatement services to complement the city's abatement strategies.

The library fund's proposed budget is $890,000, up from last year's $772,000. The change comes from the anticipated addition of a part-time programming librarian and library assistant.

"As we continue to recover from COVID, there is a need to provide library programs year-round for all ages," Library Services Director Megan Dazey said, justifying the former role. "This position will be able to plan, organize and host programs."

Regarding the other position, she said, "We are currently requesting coverage from other city departments when illnesses, scheduled vacations or emergencies arise. An additional position would help with these gaps and potentially allow additional open hours on Fridays and Saturdays."

Young noted that the budget did not include increases in rates that furnish the city's water, sewer and stormwater funds.

She said that the water fund's highest-priority projects include the replacement of small-diameter water mains around the city and installation of a generator at the Mahler Water Reclamation Facility. The City Council has chosen these projects to be funded with American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Sewer-fund priorities include a complete wastewater treatment plant renovation, with the city working on an interim improvements project and on obtaining funding during the upcoming fiscal year.

Also at the meeting:

-- A discussion took place regarding the Sweet Home City Council's monthly stipend. Young proposed increasing that payment from $75 a month for councilors and $85 for the mayor to $200 and $250, respectively, adding that the council hasn't seen an increase since the mid-1970s.

"Our city council members put in a great deal of time and energy, and they serve our community in so many different ways," she said. "While we definitely know that they are not doing this for the money and while increasing their stipend wouldn't even still cover their hours, it's something that I wanted to present as an idea of a thank-you for our council members from the community."

Young proposed that budget committee members who didn't serve on the council discuss the matter at a later date.

-- The committee voted unanimously to make a recommendation to appropriate $30,000 from the reserve fund for the purpose of matching an Oregon Department of Transportation grant for the operation of the Sweet Home Dial a Bus and Sweet Home Shopper, after Sweet Home Senior Center Executive Director Dawn Mitchell and former director Ken Bronson expressed concerns at the meeting that matching $30,000 funds for the grant weren't included in the proposed fiscal-year budget.


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