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Budget Committee agrees to fund programs initially slated for cuts but next it could change next year.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Budget Committee approved funding the Tigard Peer Court, allowing a second SRO to stay inside Tigard schools and to give funding to the city's CERT, an emergency response team made up of citizens, following deliberations Tuesday night.The Tigard Budget Committee approved a $32.4 million general fund budget Tuesday night, restoring several public safety/police department programs that were headed for the chopping block.

After deliberating on priorities and revenue sources, the committee agreed to retain a school resource officer, keep the Tigard Peer Court intact and contract with the city's Community Emergency Response Team (also known as CERT) to continue its training and education for the upcoming fiscal year.

What didn't make the cut was a plan to retain library reader services.

The Budget Committee, consisting of the Tigard City Council and an equal number of citizens, had the unenviable task of having to cut $2.5 million for the 2018-19 fiscal year, due in large part to the failure of a May 15 local option levy.

Those cuts dug deep into police, library and parks and recreation services.

Similar to last week's meeting, several proponents testified in keeping specific programs and services.

Tigard Police Officer Nick Nunn told the committee he was concerned that reductions into police services as well as reassignments, saying any further cuts would make it hard for the city to get up to speed personnel-wise in the future.

Nunn also proposed the possibility of sending voters a public safety-only levy in the future to make sure police services don't suffer.

Meanwhile, one of the frequently discussed issue over the last several weeks has been the elimination of three of four school resource officers, known as SROs, by taking those officers and reassigning them to patrol duties. Several council members said they supported keeping more than one SRO in the schools.

So did Richard Carlson, a Tigard Peer Court judge, who testified for keeping the officers in Tigard schools, saying in the current times we live in, "to eliminate SROs would be tragic."

While some of the discussion centered on seeking federal funding to help pay for SROs, no one is certain on the chances of success of securing any money. Clifford Rone, a Tigard Budget Committee member, put it this way, "I'm not betting on anything federal at this point."

Councilor President Jason Snider told the committee there were no easy decisions when approving a budget full of cuts but pointed out that voters want the city to "tighten our belts."

That sentiment was echoed by Liz Newton, another committee member.

"I think we're at a point right now where we need to live within our means," she said.

While saving several of the programs and services this year is helpful, there are no guarantees going forward. The city is planning another $2.5 million in budget cuts for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Here's how retaining the proposed funding cuts break down:

n Instead of only a single SRO in the schools, there will be two, at least for next year. That means that one officer will not be reassigned to patrol duty. That will cost the city an extra $5,000. Police Chief Kathy McAlpine told the committee that she had planned on recommending having only two SROs in the schools in the future due to budget and personnel constraints, assigning the other two officers to focus on homelessness and mental health issues.

n Tigard Peer Court, where juveniles charged with misdemeanors have the opportunity to be sentenced by a jury of their peers in lieu of going through the county juvenile system, will continue for a cost of $45,500. That funding is used to pay a half-time employee and the salaries of officers who serve as bailiffs.

n The CERT program, which recently became a non-profit organization, will be funded with $15,000 by splitting the costs between the city's water, sewer, storm water and street departments. That was one of three options floated by the group, which prepares and trains residents for major catastrophes. The money will provide for two yearly basic training sessions and other monthly disaster-preparation training activities.

The final budget will now be forwarded to the Tigard City Council for approval before it takes effect July 1.

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