Responsible budget choices will define our citys future
Many years ago I learned from my mother: 'it's not what you make; it's what you do with what you make.'
That was a lesson she learned from the Great Depression and it seems to be even more pertinent in our current recession. There seems to be an awful lot that can be learned from the 'greatest generation.'
Responsible choices and self sacrifice drove that generation to build a nation that is the envy of the world. It also preserved a quality of life that is unrivaled in its freedom, a freedom to make choices, and a freedom to make mistakes. That same situation applies today, in Lake Oswego, where responsible decisions will not only preserve our legacy but also define our future.
Budgets mean choices and the easiest choice is 'do everything.' I recently read an article that conveyed the idea that 'everything' is fine in Lake Oswego. We all know that is not the case. The bank is now asking our council for a plan to pay the principal on the West End Building (versus interest only for the last 5 years), our sewer/water fees are skyrocketing and the city now admits it will not be able to afford its staff in just a year or two.
These issues call into question our values and convey a belief that our resources aren't limited. Nothing could be further from the truth. Citizens are now expressing serious reservations about the city increasing our fees and wasteful expenditures. I believe these concerns are justified as the community matures and our requirements change.
This community has consistently maintained that schools, public safety, parks, streets and our library are the core services. Yet, we continue to waste tax dollars on non-core expenditures, visionary projects, and studies that repeat the same conclusions. In a world of limited resources, as our community matures, we need to focus expenditures toward core services for a maturing community and eliminate waste.
Here is a current example: Our council is evaluating directing nearly $2 million toward the schools. This decision will raise your fees and/or cut into core city services (our council can't print money). It is a political decision but it will have an impact on our maturing community. There will be an opportunity cost for those lost dollars and increased fees.
Is this decision consistent with our core values, or just politically expedient? Will it make a long term difference to the Lake Oswego School District or just prevent us from investing $2 million in the core requirements of a maturing community? These are the types of choices we all need to question, even if we do support our schools.
I support the council in their role as the executive arm of local government. But difficult decisions now need to be made to ensure responsible choices for our future. Where do we get the $2 million for schools? Is it in reducing people, parks, street maintenance, art or visionary projects? How do we deal with the ever-increasing debt load of the city? Make no mistake about it we have committed ourselves to very difficult choices and 'everything' is no longer a responsible option.
Dave Berg is a 20-year resident of Lake Oswego and a board member of COLA LO.