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Sherwood feels effect of slower growth

Several offices face cuts, including the library and police.

Sherwood passed its yearly operating budget in June, and while the financial outlook for the town is hardly bleak, there are signs that the colossal growth of the past decade is slowing.

The city announced in June that library hours would be cut back, though that is partially attributed to an uncertain funding situation at the county level. In addition, Sherwood announced in April that it would cut seven staff positions July 1. City Manager Ross Schultz said two of those positions, both part-time, were extended until January 1. Still, five full-time positions were cut from departments across the board, including an assistant police chief, a deputy librarian, an assistant city recorder and a project manager.

'The rate of growth has slowed,' said Sherwood Mayor Keith Mays. 'We're getting developed out. We expected to see a little bit of a shoulder in the growth curve, but you still have to address growth issues.'

Schultz acknowledged that the 500 percent growth the city experienced over the past 10 years is slowing, but he said another reason for the financial strain was staffing costs, which make up nearly 90 percent of the city's budget. Between increases in cost of living, insurance costs, pension costs and wages, the city has seen staffing costs rise by 15 percent per year. At the same time, Oregon law mandates that the city budget can only grow by 3 percent each year.

'Part of the reduction in the workforce really has to do with how we're going to handle this year and next year and the year after,' Schultz explained. He said the city may again be forced to reevaluate staffing levels again in three to five years.

Even with the cuts, the city fell short of its goal of keeping 10 percent of its $8.5 million budget in reserve. The reserve for the 2006-07 budget is $550,000, about $300,000 short of the goal.

The library initially thought it would have to close for at least one day during the week, but has worked out a revised schedule that will allow it to stay open seven days a week (see box accompanying story). The new hours take effect July 1. With the exception of the elimination of proctoring student examinations, all library programs will remain in place. Wednesday morning Toddler Storytimes will move from their current 11:30 a.m. time to 12:15 p.m.