Although no decisions were made at the March 25, City of Shady Cove budget meeting, Interim Administrator, Dale Shaddox, advised the budget committee of steps that could be taken to bolster city coffers. Shaddox also shared the good news that contracting with the sheriff’s department will not cost as much as originally anticipated. The ballpark figure of money saved is $100,000 subject to variables and review. That money combined with unexpected revenue from the new gas tax will give the city an increase of about $140,000 to $150,000 in the general and street funds.
This was good news for the city that operates on the low rate of 54.7 cents per $1,000 paid in property tax. Other good news is that PERS (Public Employees Retirement System), currently a hot topic in Oregon, will not see increases until the budget year 2012/13. This will smooth out incremental increases, said Shaddox.
As staff marches through the “status quo” budget, Shaddox said the city has some service delivery issues in the area of building permits and also staffing in the area of planning, building, deputy city recorder and cross training. He noted outside assistance may be needed for larger development applications and should be paid for by applicants. A city fee schedule amendment would be needed to enact such fees.
When it comes to services such as sewer, Shaddox pointed out that monthly rates should be adjusted each year to reflect the actual increase in the operating budget. As an example, he said $1.00 collected from each hookup would equal about $18,000 in new revenue. Public Works Director, George Bostic, explained operations and maintenance are eating up reserve funds. “We have to continually adjust our priorities,” he said.
Floodplain management impacts the general fund and staff recommended that council discuss a fee schedule for this service also. The city contracts with an attorney at $1,000 monthly but when there is litigation the cost is $175 per hour. If a fee was adopted, litigation costs could be billed to a non-compliant property owner. This would lower costs to the city from an annual $60,000 to $30,000.
With the recent contract awarded for the study to update the master water plan, Mayor Ron Holthusen suggested the city “carve out money” in the next budget (beginning July 1) to go forward with possibly securing water for Shady Cove. Shaddox cautioned to only budget what you know about and have a contingency line for unknown costs. He said, “Water is a likely topic” for a contingency line and could be used for a purpose like that.
Cost recovery mechanisms was the main theme of the budget meeting in order for the city to not be outpaced by increasing costs. Although the city council recently raised the system development charges to the maximum allowed, Shaddox also advised the council take a serious look at the “Construction Cost Index” to keep up with updated costs of construction. And he reiterated the council should look hard at adopting fee schedule amendments for services such as storm drains, transportation, parks and more.
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent