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Proposed increases in city budget

City Council to discuss 2012-13 document Tuesday

The Beaverton City Council will discuss the city's proposed $170 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year - which includes increases in water rates and monthly stipends for city councilors - at its Tuesday, June 19, meeting.

The council will meet at 6:30 p.m. in Beaverton City Hall, 4755 S.W. Griffith Drive, to discuss and accept public comment on the budget in anticipation of its adoption before the fiscal year begins on July 1.

The Budget Committee - comprising the mayor, five councilors and five appointed citizens - approved the proposed budget on May 30 at the last of its three meetings this spring.

Project expenditures in the proposed budget include $2.1 million for a previously announced plan to extend Rose Biggi Way, which currently terminates at Crescent Street, through to Hall Boulevard. The project is expected to be completed later this year.

The budget also calls for an increase in water rates estimated to cost the average family about $31 per year, and a $100 increase to city councilors' monthly $1,200 stipend.

The water rate increase, which Mayor Dennis Doyle asked to be implemented no sooner than September, boils down to a steady decrease in usage coupled with an increasing need for maintenance and infrastructure upgrades.

'We need sufficient reserves to replace significant infrastructure as it fails,' said city Finance Director Patrick O'Claire. 'Now is the time to help build it back up again.'

Conservation, the economic recession and other factors have sent usage down, and collections are expected to fall below the $7.6 million projected for this fiscal year. While O'Claire said that downward usage trend appears to be stabilizing, it still makes sense to plan for contingencies.

The proposed budget calls for a $1 increase in the flat monthly rate and an increase in the consumption rate per 100 cubic feet of water to $2.67.

City Councilor Catherine Arnold said under the circumstances she's not overly concerned about the proposed increase negatively affecting residents.

'We're talking about a few dollars a month,' she said. 'It's a relatively small amount that I think is more manageable for people. First and foremost, we have the responsibility to make sure our water system is maintained and is solvent, so we need to be good stewards. As much as I hate increasing the rates, it's necessary.'

Slightly more controversial with the Budget Committee is a proposal - presumably originating from the mayor's office - to raise councilors' monthly stipend allowance from $1,200 to $1,300.

The increase would be the first since 2000, O'Claire said, noting the increases have been 'very sporadic and very infrequent.'

With council members abstaining, the non-council Budget Committee members agreed to approve the increase. However, some councilors, including Ian King and Cathy Stanton, said now is not the time to increase expense reimbursements for a public service position.

'I think no time is a good time (for an increase),' Stanton said after the budget meetings. 'What we do is a public service. And public service is public service.'

Stanton, who has served on the council for 19 years and did not seek re-election for another term, noted her primary council-related expenses involve driving around town to meetings and events and occasionally to Salem on city business. She makes a point of donating approximately $200 of her unused monthly stipend to schools and charitable causes.

'At $1,300 a month, it means someone might take this job for the money,' she said. 'And it should not be about money, it should be about service.'

Councilor Betty Bode had a different take on the proposed increase during the final Budget Committee meeting on May 30. She focused on the gulf in compensation between the city's paid strong-mayor position and the volunteer City Council.

'The mayor continues to get changes in salary, with (health) benefits, but we don't get the benefits,' Bode said, noting the uniqueness of the councilor's role and time commitment in a city of nearly 100,000 residents. 'I think the $100 increase (is appropriate). There should be some acknowledgment that five people out of 92,000 are willing to step up to this public service.'

The current mayor's salary, including benefits, is $185,655.

Taking a more moderate stance, Councilor Marc San Soucie suggested a wide-range comparison of city council compensation packages throughout the state.

'At some point it might make sense to examine what other city council members are paid and see if there could be a more appropriate compensation package,' he said. 'I think it takes a little bit of study, and we don't have that here.'

To view the budget and City Council meeting agenda for Tuesday, visit www.beavertonoregon.gov .