Personnel additions are small and few

Graffiti cleanup and other code enforcement got a bit of special attention in Forest Grove’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013-14 budget.

But it was a small and rare expansion in the document released last week by City Manager Michael Sykes.

Honoring the sentiment expressed in a survey that helped shape last year’s levy request, the proposed $82.74 million budget primarily maintains existing services, Sykes wrote in his budget message.

“It was clear from the survey that citizens felt that they had to tighten their belts and the city needed to do the same,” Sykes wrote.

This year’s budget is the first to factor in new revenue from the voter-approved levy (an additional $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed value), which is estimated to take in about $310,000 more than last year for the city’s general fund.

It also proposes a new streetlight-maintenance fee of $1.50 per utility customer, which would raise about $150,000. Currently, streetlight maintenance is covered by the Street Fund, which would then be able to use the freed-up money for projects such as street maintenance.

Overall general-fund revenue is projected to rise about $677,425 next fiscal year, a nearly 5 percent increase, up to $14,522,809.

Three-quarters of that money would fund police and fire services, including raising a half-time Community Service Officer position to full-time in order to focus on code enforcement, which includes graffiti cleanup — a high priority on recent citizens surveys.

The proposed budget would also begin to address salaries that fall outside the city’s target range of 5 percent above or below the market median. Salaries that fall below that may take several years to correct, but the proposed budget takes a first step, Sykes wrote.

In addition, it would begin to address the problem of police sergeants making comparable money to the police captains who are their superiors.

“It should pull the captains ahead by approximately 5 percent above the sergeants,” said Human Resources Director Brenda Camilli. “It’s not perfect but it’s a step in the right direction.”

The proposed captains’ salary increase is in line with other increases, Camilli said.

The new budget would also pay for public-safety equipment such as portable radios and (for paramedics) an advanced life-support training manikin, a carbon-monoxide monitor and two video laryngoscopes for better control of breathing problems.

The Aquatic Center hopes to increase an administrative position from half-time to three-quarters-time and to hire additional evening help to manage the increased usage which is also bringing more revenue to the general fund.

The Parks Department wants to add a half-time utility worker to help maintain its parks and trails, which have increased by 20 percent in acreage over the past 10 years, while staff has slightly decreased.

The budget would also protect the reserve fund, spending $123,964 less than projected revenue and leaving that in reserve, along with enough other funds to weather any “serious financial challenges” down the road, Sykes said.

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