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Gresham scrambles to fund police officers with less help

Budget plans have to make up for loss of state grants

With a state grant that funded a Rockwood gang task force expiring, Gresham's upcoming budget calls for deep digging to come up with the money needed to keep the task force operating.

Gresham's budget committee will consider funding for the city's police and fire departments, plus money for parks and planning, on Monday, April 23.

The committee, made up of city councilors and Gresham's finance committee, has already ranked 72 services that need funding as part of the 2007-08 general fund budget.

Criminal street gang enforcement ranked No. 1 on the list.

City Manager Erik Kvarsten's proposed $49.7 million general fund budget, which he unveiled Tuesday, April 10, reflects this top funding priority.

The budget also establishes a $1 million rainy day fund, the first in Gresham's history, needed to help weather future financial storms; and provides funding for 8.5 new City Hall positions, three of which are police officers. Other new positions include a human resources personnel analyst, a senior assistant city attorney, an information technology systems analyst, a long-term city planner, a part-time recycling program technician and a public utility worker.

Of the three new officers, one will be added to the Rockwood gang task force, with two other going to the new neighborhood crime team.

State funding for the seven-member gang task force - made up of four Gresham officers and one each from Troutdale, Fairview and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office - is drying up.

Troutdale has committed to fund its representative. Gresham's budget calls for funding its four, plus one of the other positions, bringing the task force up to six members.

The police department also requested funding for five members of a new neighborhood crime team. Instead, the budget calls for funding two positions with cars to the tune of $184,000.

An $80,000 study to examine public safety services, both current and future needs in new annexation areas such as Pleasant Valley and Springwater, is budgeted.

As for the operations fund side of the budget, residents can expect, once again, to pay higher water bills. The average customer can expect to pay $3.37 more a month.

There also are nearly $3.5 million in capital improvements, such as two fire engines, breathing equipment, public safety radios, a floating bridge at Butler Creek Park and computer servers.

Of the 72 services ranked by budget commissioners, 25 of them were not funded. Those unfunded services totaled $4.8 million.

The general fund is part of the nearly $297 million overall budget, which is about a 1-percent drop, or $4 million less, than the current 2006-07 budget.

However, the general fund - which pays for services such as police, fire, parks and community development - is $5.7 million more or about a 12-percent increase to the current general fund budget of roughly $44 million.

Budget committee members also will meet Thursday, April 26, to iron out infrastructure funds and are scheduled to wrap up the budget Wednesday, May 2.

If you go

What: Gresham budget committee meeting focusing on police, fire, parks and planning

When: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, April 23

Where: Gresham City Hall Conference Center, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway