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Scappoose beefs up emergency fund

Unexpected costs decreased contingency fund, prompting budgeting exercise


BurgeOf major discussion before passing the budget was the city’s contingency fund — a fund for emergencies and unexpected costs. Councilors ultimately added to the initial $499,252 outlined for the contingency by pulling money from unfilled positions within the city.

Prior to passing the budget, Mayor Scott Burge highlighted how the city could add about $140,000 to the contingency fund by moving money that was initially pegged to be spent on personnel.

The contingency outlined in the last fiscal year budget amounted to a higher figure of $567,382. Burge said that number has fallen due to some unexpected costs within the city.

“The contingency going down may be because of things going out of contingency,” Burge said. “Some of it was the buy-out of the city manager and some legal expenses for the police department.”

A story published in the Spotlight (“Investigations, council decisions cost Scappoose $200,000 so far,” Jan. 30) revealed some of the city’s unanticipated expenses throughout the year, one of which was the negotiated termination of former City Manager Jon Hanken, who received a one year severance totaling more than $110,000. At additional cost to the city — about $26,548 — were three investigations into former Scappoose Police Chief Doug Greisen based on allegations he mismanaged a police chase, ran a hostile workplace and misspent city funds.

The City Council increased the contingency fund to about $630,000 by moving money to the fund from unfilled city positions that had been allocated in the budget. Burge said the proposed budget had overlapping interim city manager and permanent city manager potions. He added that not filling the permanent position for six months will bring about $74,000 into the contingency.

The city is currently without a city planner, a position unlikely to be filled for another two months, bringing about $20,000 into contingency. Burge said that a review of year-end personnel services from the prior budget was $46,000 less that the city anticipated spending. That money will also be added to the contingency fund.

“I do feel that within the budget, as I understand it, things have been double-booked,” Burge said. “For example, we are budgeted for a full-time police chief for the entire year, so every month that he doesn’t go in, that money will naturally drop down into contingency.”

Burge said that keeping police chief position as it currently is, with Lt. Norm Miller filling the position of acting police chief, saves the city $12,700 a month.

“The positions that aren’t being used, that money will fall down into contingency,” Burge said, adding city officials had initially debated cutting a patrol position within the police department to draw more funds.

The St. Helens City Council also adopted its nearly $37.1 million budget for the next fiscal year this week.

St. Helens Mayor Randy Peterson described it as a “status quo” budget.

“It’s pretty much the same as last year,” Peterson said of the document, which the St. Helens City Council adopted Wednesday. “No big changes.”

The budget St. Helens adopted last June totaled about $33.5 million. The city is budgeting considerably more than it did last year for economic development and capital improvements, with the $800,000 budgeted last year for stormwater system projects increasing to $2.2 million in this year’s budget.