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City sets two-year budget

Budgeted city activities closely match goals set by elected councilors

Sandy city councilors were intent last week on being certain their goals were being considered when department administrators planned their expenses and revenues for the next biennial budget.

Committee members scrutinized the various funds and department’s proposed budgets, occasionally going over individual line items.

After three hours of scrutiny, the city Budget Committee made its final recommendation.

But there will be a formal budget adoption vote of the City Council at the June 3 meeting.

City Manager Scott Lazenby said there isn’t the need for a lot of discussion on the budget.

“A lot of the big policy issues that affect the budget (such as water system, capital improvements and transit fares),” he said, “have been discussed extensively and decided at other times.

“Council’s (budget) adoption is a pretty routine matter. By state law, the council can’t raise the budget to more than the budget committee recommends.”

One of the issues some councilors voiced was the need to hold the line on police expenses, considering the fact the city will likely take over law enforcement in the city of Estacada. The agreement between the cities is not finalized yet, but that could happen within a few weeks.

“(At the June 3 meeting) we won’t have an actual agreement to present to council,” Lazenby said. “We’re still working with Estacada on the details, but we’ll have the outline of the agreement.”

Councilors Carl Exner and Lois Coleman expressed concern that the police budget should not have a negative effect on the city’s overall budget and if Sandy becomes Estacada’s police force, Sandy residents shouldn’t be less safe.

Exner says he wouldn’t be in favor of the agreement if the additional responsibilities caused Sandy to be less safe and have fewer officers to patrol its streets.

But both Police Chief Kim Yamashita and Lazenby stated the number of officers would not be reduced in Sandy. If two experienced officers were sent to Estacada, two more recruits would be hired to backfill the Sandy police force.

Sandy Mayor Bill King said Lazenby, who is the city’s budget officer, changed the format this time (instead of presentations to the budget committee from each department) and had written information about how each department’s budget was meeting the council’s goals.

“So pretty much all of the councilors’ questions were pre-answered,” King said, “in the packets of information they were given ahead of time.”

King praised city staff for planning a conservative budget while working with reduced revenues, increased expenses and maintaining all current staff members.

Coleman said she thought the budget is fair to all of the city’s departments.

“I don’t have any real concerns,” she said, “and I think we’ll get through the next two years in pretty good shape. We have sale of the city shops (land) figured into the budget, but if that doesn’t happen, we’ll manage.”

Exner is happy that the overall budget has more money in it than the previous biennial budget, although Lazenby lamented in his budget message that the rise in property tax revenue was only 2 percent.

“This is not a budget with a lot of extra money in it,” Exner said. “Of this $48 million city budget, there’s only $760,000 in the contingency fund to pay for surprises. That’s not a very big number (less than 2 percent).”

Exner also has concerns for the rising cost of PERS, which he calls “a pretty good size chunk of our employee cost.” (nearly 30 percent of salary costs).

“If the cost of PERS continues to go the way it has,” he said, “it could put us in a difficult position.”

But Councilor Olga Gerberg is the eternal optimist and believes that city administrators are doing everything possible to keep the city operating well.

“I feel pretty comfortable about the outcome of the whole (budgeting) process,” she said. “It was a good education for us when (the city manager) was able to elaborate, and there was a clear understanding of what we were doing on the budget.

“I have no concerns with the budget; I really trust what the city manager does, and it gives me a lot of comfort when he can answer my questions with clarity.”

What concerns Gerberg most is the fact that when she is at activities around town, no one stops her to express opinions or concerns about what is happening in the city.

“I think we should encourage the community to ask questions,” she said, “to be a participant, and to attend meetings. Education is important for all of us.”

To see the details of the city’s budget for the next biennium, including the budget message and budget summary, visit the website: sites.google.com/a/ci.sandy.or.us/budget/.

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