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Redirecting resources will preserve our community character

“The best way out of a difficulty is through it.”

— Will Rogers

Our council is now evaluating the recommended budget approved by the citizen’s budget committee. It will be interesting to see if this council adopts the budget as past administrations substantially overrode the approved CBC recommendation for several years. Berg

Despite the “spin” from various political groups, the budget committee did not propose a dramatically reduced budget but opted for a “redirection” in funding priorities. LO faces a serious problem with personnel costs growing faster than revenue and the committee adopted very minor reductions in staff to bring those costs in line. This issue is continuing into the future and the committee may well recommend careful reductions in both staff levels and programs over time to resolve it.

CBC redirected funds toward an increased effort to improve our streets while also approving the allowed increase in the property tax rate. These decisions showed CBC members are realistic in choosing balanced options, which are consistent with the community attitudes survey. Unfortunately we could not find enough savings to fully fund the required additional $2-3 million a year for our streets. This is a long-term issue that will require additional redirection in future budgets.

Recreation programs came under scrutiny this year as the committee discovered, after three years of member requests, that these programs are heavily subsidized by our general fund. The subsidy is well in excess of $1-2 million. While we may enjoy some of these programs, the days of subsidizing them are limited. Why? Every dollar we spend on this subsidy is a dollar taken away from maintaining our streets. It’s just that simple. Streets or subsidized recreation programs?

Most believe that subsidizing our parks properties is expected, but subsidizing voluntary recreation programs that compete with the private sector is another matter. User fees need to cover the costs of these programs to allow the city to invest in our infrastructure. CBC encouraged the parks board to resolve this issue rapidly, with either fees or program reductions, before the next budget cycle.

Do we fund our streets, which we all use, or do we fund a recreational program that a small group of residents uses, but where we all subsidize it? That’s a prime example of the tradeoff we face in the future and it’s one that needs to be resolved to preserve our community character. LO can have both, but we can no longer subsidize one by allowing our streets to degrade rapidly. This damages our community character in a way observable to both residents and visitors alike. It’s no longer sustainable.

Most of us assume services are paid for by users but that isn’t accurate in Lake Oswego. Why? Local government has grown well beyond our knowledge in recent years and we don’t realize how many programs are being operated by government or their hidden costs.

I would like to express my appreciation to all the citizens that sent me emails, called me and stopped me on the street to discuss their concerns. I need your input, your solutions and your criticism to be effective as chairman of CBC. Let’s ensure we preserve our community character by making informed decisions together.

Feel free to visit COLA LO at commonsenselo.blogspot.com or commonsenselo.org.

Dave Berg is a 22-year resident of Lake Oswego, a board member of COLA LO and chairman of the Lake Oswego Budget Committee.



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