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Gervais, Hubbard, Mount Angel and Donald have cautiously optimistic budgets

The cities of Gervais, Hubbard, Mount Angel and Donald are nearing the end of their annual budget processes, as the proposed budgets in each jurisdiction have been cleared by their respective committees and will be subject to the review of the city councils during meetings this month.

Like in Woodburn, these communities’ fiscal outlooks demonstrate a cautiously optimistic view on the strength of a slowly but surely improving national, state and local economy. None of the cities’ budget officers asked for or predicted layoffs or service reductions in the upcoming fiscal year.

In Gervais, the city is coming to the conclusion of its last two major capital improvement projects: completion of a new water storage tank and the sidewalk improvements crossing the railroad tracks on Ivy Avenue.

“The city has been in a capital projects mode the last seven-to-eight years,” City Manager Susie Marston said. “As we’re wrapping up our capital projects, this budget is really focused more on operations and maintenance.”

In her annual budget message, Marston also encouraged city officials to plan for future repairs and upgrades to existing infrastructure, which will be needed as the various systems age. She noted that the budgeted revenue amounts have been based on “conservative estimates” and added that each one of the city’s funds will continue to maintain a surplus for future activities.

The Gervais City Council will discuss the 2014-15 budget at its monthly meeting Thursday.

In Hubbard, the budget for next fiscal year will — like the current fiscal year — reflect the guidance of a water and wastewater rate study that was completed in 2012. According to Hubbard Budget Officer Nancy McClain’s budget message, the city had chosen (in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 fiscal years) to keep utility rates level.

“This has had a major impact on the operational funds (general, water and sewer), as the cost of operations, utilities, electric and natural gas have increased,” McClain wrote.

If approved, this year will be the first year of a “static water pressure” fee outlined in the 2012 study, which is expected to generate approximately $51,000 in additional revenue for water projects. For capital projects, Hubbard’s proposed budget includes the replacement of restrooms at Rivenes Park (which is contingent on the approval of a grant application) and a street construction project using special city allotment grant funds through the state.

The Hubbard City Council will discuss the proposed $4.26 million budget at its June 10 meeting.

In Mount Angel, a number of capital projects are in the proposed budget for next fiscal year, including the first phase of the Ebner Park project ($522,638), technology and vehicle replacement ($27,297 and $104,215, respectively), and water utility projects on Railroad Avenue and North Pershing Street ($186,000 and $183,000).

City Administrator Eileen Stein said the original document had also proposed allocating $342,000 as seed capital for the planning and ultimate construction of a new City Hall, but the budget committee reduced that to $142,000.

“That will still give us some money to work with,” she said.

A lengthy debate was also had over Mount Angel’s school resource officer, an expense that is shared between the city and the school district at $44,250 each. Stein said there appeared to be a sense among some committee and community members that school discipline should be the responsibility of educators, administrators and parents, without the involvement of the police department.

However, the motion to continue funding the position did clear the committee, narrowly, by a 7-6 vote.

The Mount Angel City Council will take up the proposed budget June 23.

In Donald, the proposed document is what City Manager Heidi Blaine termed a “status quo” budget, which keeps the services provided to residents similar to previous years.

Several technology expenditures proposed for this year include the purchase of a new computer and two monitors, as well as the second of three payments for new finance and utility software. In her budget message, Blaine admitted that the city is “behind the times as far as technology is concerned,” but such upgrades require very strategic planning.

“Donald’s budget is small, so it doesn’t allow for many additional expenses besides the required ones,” she wrote, adding that such a lean bottom line, however, makes it especially difficult during economic recessions. “In the coming years, the city will need to continue to balance saving for the future with paying for the maintenance and repairs of old machinery, equipment, buildings and infrastructure.”

The Donald City Council will discuss its proposed budget June 10.

The 2014-15 fiscal year begins July 1.




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