Estacada council adopts maintenance budget for 2011-12

Councilor Flohr suggests changing contributions to employee benefits

With no major additions or subtractions from the previous fiscal year, the Estacada City Council adopted the city's 2011- 12 budget at its June 13 meeting by a margin of 6-1.

The budget estimates revenues of $3,840,795 this year with expenditures coming in at $5,040,129. City Manager Bill Elliot said these numbers are slightly higher than last year's budget, with most of the increase in the expenditure line coming from the anticipated Wade Creek Park Phase II grant-funded project in the city's General Fund. With everything calculated, the budget's ending balance is estimated at $845,761.

'Overall, the city of Estacada is in good financial condition for the level of services we are currently providing,' Elliot said in his 2011-12 budget message. 'Our revenues are being prudently spent on things necessary to maintain our systems in working condition.'

The city has 15 full-time employees and many part-time employees, and the number of those employees, as well as the benefits provided for the staff, will change in this year's budget. City employees across the board will receive a 3 percent merit pay raise this year.

Councilor Brendan Flohr cast the only dissenting vote for the budget. He said in a discussion after the budget was adopted that he would like the city to begin exploring making changes in the amount of benefits it provides for employees.

'I think the time has come where employees can begin to shoulder some of the expense of their benefits package,' Flohr explained to the rest of council after the budget was adopted. 'I urge you to begin to at least explore this. What I am suggesting here, in this process, is our employees begin to contribute to their own benefits instead of the city continuing to cover 100 percent of them.'

If the city does change its policy on the amount it pays for its employees' benefits, Councilor Brent Dodrill said, the city should make sure it can compete in the region as an employer.

'I do appreciate Councilor Flohr's comments,' Dodrill said, 'but in the short time I have been on council, I have seen employees leaving us for other cities simply because we can't compete.'

'I think it needs to be a gradual increase and it needs to be fair,' Flohr said.

To stay within its means, the city accomplishes many of its services though the use of contractors instead of hiring full-time professional staff. These services include legal/attorney services, engineering, planning, police, janitorial, building inspections, meter reading and some grounds maintenance. Elliot said it would require somewhere between 18 and 25 full-time employees to handle these services without contracts.

'I believe we are using our tax dollars wisely in this choice of service delivery to our citizens,' Elliot said.

As far as major projects go, the adopted budget includes a total of $908,570 for major capital improvements. This includes $406,870 for the Wade Creek Park Phase II project (which includes a $295,000 grant); $70,000 for the Juniper Road improvement; $110,000 for other street projects; $76,200 for Water Fund capital projects; and $70,000 in Sewer Fund projects.

Estacada is facing a potential major upgrade to the Waste Water Treatment Facility in the near future if a cheaper process to eliminate excess ammonia does not prove successful. Elliot said future budgets would address this issue.