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'Status quo' budget presented to Scappoose budget panel

The Scappoose Budget Committee will receive the city’s proposed budget draft for deliberation Monday, May 6. “This is a status quo budget,” said Jon Hanken, Scappoose city manager. “Budgets are tight, we’re still in a recession.”

Cuts may be minimized for the 2013-14 fiscal year, but that doesn’t mean Scappoose is out of the water.

“We are still on a downward spiral, there are a lot of issues related to revenue. As far as building goes for this year, we’re projecting 12 new homes,” Hanken said. “In previous years we would have one month with 100 new home permits. In my opinion, I don’t think we’ll see anything like that again.”

Hanken’s assessment matches up with the outlook of metro-area home builders.

“It’s just gonna be kinda hit and miss,” said Rich Bailey, owner of Rich Bailey Construction in Columbia County and board member of the Home Builders Association of Portland. “There’s not a lot of people going in to Columbia County, and the younger generation doesn’t want to commute out of Portland. That’s where their social life is.”

Bailey said the estimated number of 12 new homes in Scappoose is probably fairly close. “Trying to get people to move out to our area is a tough go,” he said. “The downturn started five years ago, at that time I was building about six to 10 homes per year in Scappoose and St. Helens. It’s really hit and miss. People are buying, but nobody is looking for new homes.”

Other factors are weighing on the city’s budget. The amount the city will have to spend on Public Employee Retirement System benefits and health insurance is a big influence, Hanken said. The proposed budget allocates a total of $646,156 to health insurance, and $507,879 to PERS.

This year, the city anticipates the retirement of four employees, two of whom will be replaced, Hanken said. Even though the other two positions are being cut, total spending on PERS went up significantly this year, Hanken said.

The draft budget allocates money to a number of projects within the city, such as the $165,987 repaving project on Third Street, the $900,000 project to relocate sewer pipes running under a bridge being replaced on JP West Road and the installation of two new bocci ball courts planned for Veterans Park.

The city is also allocating money to the Scappoose Historical Society through matching the money it will raise during a July 28 Watts House Concert.

Hanken said property tax revenue and franchise fees will be relatively flat this year and that the Police Department will maintain its current staffing levels.