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Youth programs spared from budget ax

Tigard Budget Committee restores police funding for backpack program, peer court and cadets

TIGARD - The city's Budget Committee on Monday approved a plan that would lessen $2.5 million in cuts to city services.

The Budget Committee has approved a plan that would re-instate two laid-off police officers and keep three programs in the police department's youth services department: The city's peer court, cadet program and community backpack program would remain, as well as a half-time staffer to oversee them.

The Budget Committee's approved plan calls for raising the city's franchise fees on utilities such as Portland General Electric.

Raising the fees is expected to bring in an additional $374,000 to the city.

'These programs are pillars for the community,' Tigard police spokesman Jim Wolf said. 'The Budget Committee recognized the importance of those three programs and the far reaching benefits that the entire community can obtain with them.'

The three programs serve the community in vastly different ways. The department's youth peer court allows first-time juvenile offenders the chance to do community service and restitution in place of going to juvenile court.

The city's community backpack program fills backpacks with food for elementary school students throughout the city whose families can't afford meals on the weekends.

Not included in the list of saved youth programs are the women's self-defense classes and the police department's popular D.A.R.E. and G.R.E.A.T. summer camps, which will be cut when the City Council approves the budget next month.

Saving those programs would have cost the city an additional $73,704 dollars, according to Toby LaFrance the city's finance director.

'Within the scope of cost, these (three programs) appear to be the best suited for this present condition of the economy,' Wolf said.

The raised utility fees are charged to utilities by the city and are ultimately paid for by utility customers.

LaFrance said that for the average Tigard homeowner, they will likely see their PGE bill rise about $1 a month.

Under the approved budget, City Hall would close one day a week, as would the Tigard Public Library.

The library is already open a halfday on Thursdays. City Manager Marty Wine said the proposed cut would close the library the other half of the day.

Wine said things need to change in the way Oregon cities are funded if they want to keep from making these sorts of cuts every few years.

'Fundamentally, our costs grow faster than our revenues,' Wine said.

It's a sentiment that has been echoed in the city for months.

Earlier this year, Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen said the city was on the edge of 'a budget precipice,' as costs of city services continued to rise while property taxes have failed to bring in enough funds.

The approved budget must be ratified by the City Council, which it will do before the new fiscal year begins July 1.




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