Priority list has helped, but new services need to be available

For the past two years, Gresham budget officials have drafted a list of services, ranked them in order of priority and then funded accordingly.

Budget staff members plan to revise the process to allow the budget committee to also rank services the city should provide, but doesn't.

During a noon City Council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 26, Budget Division Manager Nikki Peterson and Deputy Finance Director Deborah Bond walked councilors through the changes.

Mayor Charles Becker and councilors Shirley Craddick and David Widmark attended. Because four councilors must be present for a quorum, the three who were there couldn't make any formal decisions. But all seemed to support the changes to the budget process.

Based on a June survey of Gresham's 14-member budget committee - consisting of the city's finance committee and its City Council - the committee is quite pleased with the new priority-based budget, introduced by City Manager Erik Kvarsten in 2005.

The new process called for committee members to rank nearly 140 city services in order of funding priority, as opposed to slicing and dicing various departments. This made making cuts needed to balance the city's budget easier.

According to the survey, committee members ranked the process a 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5. However, several members requested a way to address unfunded needs - services the city should be providing but isn't.

So budget officials have proposed adding what could be described as a funding wish list to the process. By prioritizing the wish-list services, in addition to about 100 already funded services, the committee could better identify services that perhaps the city should stop funding in favor of others.

The changes will take effect next spring during the 2007-08 budget process, which promises some tense moments.

Next fall, a $1.5 million state grant for gang enforcement will expire. Also the Rockwood Weed and Seed program's five-year run will end. The program helps fund police overtime for community events, curfew sweeps and summer bike patrols.

The budget committee will wrestle with a five-year list of deferred capital improvements.

In addition, Multnomah County has vowed to yank Gresham's share of the business-income tax starting in July 2008. Gresham's share represents about 10 cents of every general fund dollar, said Terry McCall, the city's finance and management services director.

Reporter Mara Stine can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 503-492-5117.

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