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Breaking down the budget

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On June 27 the West Linn City Council adopted a $75 million budget that covers operations for two years. The budget adoption is the final step in a citizen-focused process that relies on the Citizens' Budget Committee, the city manager, community input and Oregon's most decorated finance agency: the West Linn Finance Department.

* Expenses: The diversity of expenditures to run a modern city is almost endless, but includes the maintenance of parks, library services and a municipal court in addition to the planning department, street repair, police, vehicle maintenance, computers, water, salaries - and yes - the maintenance and operation of our waste and surface water utilities.

We live in a beautiful city which boasts many fine amenities, including good streets, a fine library, good police protection and many great parks. Like citizens of other cities, we pay taxes for the amenities and services provided. I am frequently asked about the amount of taxes we pay compared with other cities such as Milwaukie, Oregon City, Portland, Lake Oswego, Beaverton and Wilsonville. The average West Linn household pays between $23 and $66 less each month that those in these other cities.

* Staff: It is apparent that our city manager and his staff do more with less than their counterparts in other cities. Staffing is the most expensive component of a city's budget, and West Linn has fewer staff per capita than neighboring communities. West Linn employs 5.42 people per 1,000 of its population while Lake Oswego and Wilsonville employ more than 8.

Performance measures enacted by staff indicate that, since 2008, the number of park acres maintained per month per worker has increased by 1.43 acres. Administrative jobs have also been evaluated using performance measures and, as a result, the city has entered into an agreement to convert most of our paper records to electronic records. This conversion allows for the reduction of administrative assistant positions.

* Citizen involvement: Besides working on the budget committee, citizens are involved in many ways, from pulling ivy in our parks to serving on the sustainability committee. We are thankful to all of our citizen volunteers who spend their time working to make West Linn a better place.

* Police station: The council is pursuing our No. 1 goal, which is to build a new police station. While staff and council are working on site selection and cost analysis, a group of your fellow citizens has formed a political action committee with the objective of advocating for the passage of a bond measure in November to build a safe and modern facility for your police officers.

* Future projects: The council will soon be asking for citizen input to review the vision for West Linn in 20 or 30 years. Of particular concern are Highway 43 and Willamette Drive and the future of commerce in our city. The council also recently approved the purchase of land to increase parking at the West Linn Public Library, as we know this community resource desperately needs more parking to accommodate the high demand for library services.

I hope this short update on city affairs is useful to you as the summer gets into full swing. I look forward to seeing you at upcoming community events like the Old Time Fair, Music in the Park and Movies in the Park.

Mayor John Kovash is the mayor of West Linn