Beaverton budget: More positions, but tax increase pared
Beaverton will have a city budget that includes most of the new spending — but less than half of the increased tax rate — proposed by Mayor Denny Doyle.
The City Council has scheduled a final hearing on June 19, just before the new budget year starts July 1.
The budget committee, which consists of the elected councilors and five appointed public members, completed its work during a five-hour marathon on May 24. It met for more than 12 hours over three days.
The committee shaved some spending that amounts to one-10th of 1 percent of the all-funds budget originally proposed at $278.4 million. But it halved the proposed 11-cent increase in the general property tax rate to 5 cents, although 3 cents of the cut resulted from Doyle's withdrawal of an increase for the street lighting fund.
A majority of the committee voted to drop one of three additional police officers, and reduce by $15,000 an increase for more library books and materials. About $200,000 will be drawn from the contingency fund — about equal to 2 cents on the tax rate — to make up the rest without additional spending cuts.
Three councilors — Lacey Beaty, Mark Fagin and Marc San Soucie — balked at Doyle's proposed increase of 11 cents. The current rate of $4.17 per $1,000 of assessed (taxable) property value has remained steady for the past five years.
"We're asking for 11 positions in a year when we should be saving," Beaty said. "In a time when I hoped to see a budget reduction, when we could go out to our community and say we are not adding positions, we are going ahead with this."
Doyle's budget proposed to add 14 positions for a total of 581, although five of them are water utility workers paid by water customers, not property taxpayers.
When a majority of the public members initially balked at the cuts, Beaty added:
"Do you want the council to decide where to cut, or do you want to give us a package we can agree on? What I am hearing is that three of the four councilors do not want to go to 11 cents. So if the budget committee passes this and it comes to the council … I think the budget might be sent back."
Paying for priorities
The budget adds a senior project development manager for affordable housing, and the committee itself added an engineer to oversee sidewalk construction, the latter paid from the street fund. The council voted unanimously Jan. 2 to endorse the second year of its five-year housing plan — including a manager — and on Feb. 6 adopted a plan that sets out $117 million in spending for sidewalks, bicycle paths, and signal and street improvements.
"We want all these things, and then we complain we don't get them," said Councilor Cate Arnold, who ended up in the minority. "Then we don't want to increase our rate because that's just too high."
Arnold said the proposed 11-cent rate would have resulted in overall increase of around $32 per year on the average assessed value ($295,210) of a Beaverton home. The budget approved by the committee assumes an increase of 5 cents, about $15 per year for the average home.
The city's share of the overall property tax bill, including an additional 20 cents per $1,000 for debt service, is about 22
percent of the total combined rate of $20.39 for all local governments.
Still, the revised budget proposes these additions:
• Police: Two officers will be added to form a second bicycle patrol downtown. Police Chief Jim Monger said the current two-officer team spends much time dealing with homeless people on the streets. The committee blocked his request for an additional officer, which would have brought the city back to a standard of 1.48 officers per 1,000 population — but also would raise the tax rate by 1 cent.
Monger also discussed rising cost estimates for the proposed Public Safety Center. (See separate story.)
• Water: The utility will add five new positions, all from the water fund supported by city customers. Beaverton is preparing to add 16,000 people (about 4,000 accounts) already within city limits, but now served by the Tualatin Valley Water District. The city also is preparing to sell $21 million in already-approved revenue bonds to pay for a new 5-million-gallon reservoir on Cooper Mountain — there is already a similar reservoir there — and for new pipelines.
• Library: Two half-time security monitors will be added at the main library and the Murray Scholls branch, and more part-time staffing will enable the library to stay open a little longer on weekends, although weekday hours will be trimmed.
The acquisitions budget for books and other materials will increase from $535,000 to $685,000, $15,000 less than Doyle requested. The increase reverses a decline over the past five years, but is still less than the total in 2013.
• Lighting: The budget originally proposed a 3-cent tax increase to pay for continuing the replacement of about 3,000 street lamps with energy-saving light-emitting diodes (LEDs). But Doyle withdrew the increase, saying he and the city staff will consider alternatives.
• Other: In addition to the new positions for a housing program and sidewalk construction, the budget adds a government affairs manager — the change came after the job of chief administrative officer was split in two — a clerk for Beaverton Municipal Court, and an assistant finance director.
Fagin had proposed to swap a library assistant position for an administrative assistant for the mayor. "I don't want him doing his own calendar," he said.
But the committee voted it down after learning that it would require the layoff of a current library employee. Doyle said he would return with a supplemental request later in the year if he found he needs extra help.
A couple of other relatively small cuts — to deny replacement of a police car, and to cut the police ammunition budget by 10 percent — were rejected or withdrawn.
Arnold criticized the council majority for proposing cuts that amounted to nitpicking.
"Having a councilor tell the mayor he is going to give a position because he needs someone to do his calendar is not a budget decision or financial oversight," she said. "It seems out of range for what we are doing."
NOTE: Adds tax rate information; clarifies that average assessed (taxable) value of a home in Beaverton is $295,210 in 2017-18.