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State of City: 2013 will be tough budget year

But groundbreaking efforts were accomplished in the year just completed


Speaking on the “State of the City,” City Manager Scott Lazenby told members of the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce that 2012 was “an exceptional year.”

Scott Lazenby, Sandy city managerHe also gave an insight about what to expect in 2013, and finally turned the microphone around and asked for predictions from those present at last week’s chamber luncheon.

What happened in 2012

In a recession year with very slow growth, the city of Sandy completely remodeled its library, making it so energy efficient (along with the new police station) that the two facilities, which used to share the same building, use less energy combined than the old building — even though there is 6,000 more square feet.

Lazenby acknowledged that the school district’s new high school is a huge milestone and asset for the city.

He reminded the audience the new grant-funded transit center opened just two days before the luncheon. The transit center is a place of respite and a place of transfer for transportation around Sandy as well as to and from Gresham, Estacada and the mountain villages.

Another area of city improvement includes the many projects for façade improvement, featuring Sandy Style wood and stone.

“This program (paid with urban renewal funds) continues,” Lazenby said, “and is very well received by participating businesses and residents of Sandy.”

He described the Sandy Main Street program as “good news-bad news.” The program tried to establish an economic improvement district in the downtown core, but too many landowners voted no.

Another positive activity was the annexation to the city of about 130 acres of wooded parkland that includes a portion of the Sandy River.

Coming soon is the installation of fiber-optic cable throughout the city. It will be accomplished by feeding the cable through the city’s sewer pipes.

Finally, Lazenby said, a city grant would pay for the first phase of improvements to Bornstedt Park.

“There was quite a bit of activity going on (in Sandy) in the middle of a recession,” he said.

Whats coming in 2013

Lazenby said the year just beginning is likely to be the toughest budget year he will have faced in his two decades in Sandy.

He predicts tax revenue will provide fewer dollars to the city by next fall, and the only people happy about the situation are those whose property’s market value has fallen below the assessed value, and their tax bill therefore is lower than the previous year.

On the expense side, the news also is not positive. The PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) is still a thorn in the city’s side.

Lazenby predicted PERS would ask the city to pay 30 percent of qualified employees’ salaries to the retirement system.

The city also is embarking on the largest most-expensive project in its history. The connection with Bull Run water will cost at least $8.5 million.

So with less revenue and higher expenses, the general picture is not very bright. Lazenby called it a “perfect storm.”

But he said the city is “conservatively financed.”

“We have reserves, and we’ll get through it,” he said. “We have

very resourceful departments, but it’s going to be a tough year.”

Citizen outlook for 2013

Lazenby asked a series of seven questions, including these (below) with responses from people at the meeting:

  • On the outlook for an improved economy, 89 percent were cautiously optimistic.

  • On the effect fiber cable would have on economic development, 64 percent said it would have a big effect.

  • On the importance of the city streamlining processes to establish a new business, 64 percent said it would be very important.

  • On the city investing a significant amount of money in Sandy Main Street, 40 percent said yes.

  • On the importance of being involved in economic development activities, 92 percent said the city should be involved.