Proposed St. Helens budget includes new rec program, school officer
The proposed city of St. Helens budget includes creation of a new recreation district fund, the addition of a school resource officer, and modest staffing increases for several departments, including the library and police.
The St. Helens Budget Committee recommended approval of the proposed 2018-19 budget last week, Thursday, May 3, on a 9-to-1 vote. City councilor and budget committee member, Doug Morten, voted against the budget, citing concerns about long-term parks planning.
The proposed budget will go before the St. Helens City Council for approval consideration in June.
The proposed $43 million budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year marks a $7 million increase from the current $36 million budget. The revenue increase stems primarily from grants and one-time investments in capital outlay projects, according to Finance Director Matt Brown.
Budget highlights include changes to services that will directly affect the public through the city's parks and police departments, as well as the creation of a new district that could be funded by a new parks user fee.
The city budget proposes to establish a new recreation department with a budget allocation of $65,000, which would support the functions of a recent partnership developed between the city and the St. Helens School District. Within the department, $45,000 would go toward a part-time salary, and $15,000 is identified for materials and services.
The city recently announced the creation of a parks and recreation program in partnership with the school district. The new department would presumably help coordinate those efforts and work to develop a comprehensive year-round program through community partnerships.
Over the past year the city pursued several proposals to generate money to help pay for park maintenance and upgrades. In 2017, the City Council heavily discussed proposing a tax on sugary beverages — the proceeds of which would be directed toward the parks department to promote healthy outdoor activity — but the tax ultimately garnered backlash from the community and grocers and was not approved.
Starting next January, the budget proposes to add a $2 parks and recreation service fee to all city households, which would be collected through city utility billing. The fee is projected to generate $65,000 over a six-month period. The budgeted revenue hinges, however, on the fact that the fee would ultimately be approved the City Council after community outreach takes place, Brown explained.
The proposed budget also includes an increase in full-time employment allocations within the St. Helens Police Department to allow a second school resource officer to work with the St. Helens School District. Currently, one officer works with the district and splits his time between the district buildings.
Police Chief Terry Moss explained that the school district and city both fund the school resource officer position, meaning an increase in funding would allow two such officers to work in the district. While the budget technically allocates for one full-time employee, the money would be used to help pay a portion of two individuals' salaries, Moss explained.
The arrangement would likely require approval by the St. Helens School District in its 2018-19 budget, since funding is shared between the two entities. The school district is still holding budget commit-
tee meetings and has not yet approved their proposed budget.
The proposed budget addresses modest staffing increases, including a part-time administration position, police support specialist, waste water treatment plant specialist and library assistant. A part-time building inspector position was eliminated from the budget.
A full copy of the proposed budget can be found on the city's website.