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Day: May 6, 2010

Police position may not be cut

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Fee increases, ongoing cuts and pay freezes will stabilize a city general fund that is falling about $178,000 short for the coming fiscal year in the city manager’s proposed budget.

And while Keizer Police will be reducing overtime and eliminating non-mandatory training, in the proposed budget they will not be forced to lay off a police officer. The budget committee and city council previously indicated supporting a cop cut at an April work session, but that appears to be off the table.

“That was going into the budget,” said City Manager Chris Eppley. “I actually took that out based on conversations I had after the fact with councilors, committee members and citizens generally. … Although they identified that as a direction to go, the community probably wasn’t going to be willing to stomach that kind of approach.”

City leaders said at a Budget Committee hearing Tuesday the increases to the sewer franchise fee – and the creation of a stormwater franchise fee – would average about $13.14 per household per year.

And with ongoing cuts – in addition to overtime and salary freezes, the Keizer Community Library, parks and other programs are expected to suffer – city staff believe the general fund will weather the storm created by a bad economy and subsequent lower-than-expected revenues.

“We used to say that revenues we forecasted conservatively,” Eppley said. “Unfortunately they’re just aren’t that many revenues to be forecasted.”

Things are tough all over, it seemed, as the annual tradition of local do-gooders begging the committee for scraps – $1,500 for neighborhood association printing and postage here, $1,700 to pay part of the library’s rent – went on.

Stella Horsley represented the library. She said that $19,200 set aside for a library district ballot measure study should be put back in the manager’s budget, as the group was getting closer to matching the amount.

She also said the library serves mostly populations

without the time, means or energy to get to the Salem Library.

“It is not in the public interest to ignore these people,” Horsley said.

Jeanne Bond-Esser and Vickie Hilgemann appeared to represent parks’ interests. (See related story.)

Krina Lemons, director of the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, asked for $1,000 to continue supplementing the after-school program, formerly known as the POWER program.

While acknowledging Keizer’s contribution wouldn’t be the difference, she said losing the after-school program could jeopardize a federal program that feeds dinner to low-income children.

“I would never put a police budget, a streets budget, the chamber of commerce, the libraries or even port-a-potties at risk,” Lemons said. “But I will say an extra $1,000 says, ‘Our community invests an extra $5 per child to keep them safe … and to keep our streets safe as well,” noting 4,600 meals were served to Claggett Creek Middle students from September 2009 to March 2010.

The West Keizer Neighborhood Association asked for funds to keep doing mailers to their members, and the Keizer Art Association asked for an amount to purchase art for the Winter Art Solstice and Mayor’s Art Invitational next year.

All these items will be considered at later budget meetings. If these were added back in, it would add to the budget deficit.

This story was printed before the Thursday, May 7, budget meeting.

Budget committee members offered up other ways to cut costs, including closing city hall early or on certain days, furlough days or layoffs. Councilor Richard Walsh questioned whether the assistant to the city manager position was necessary.

Walsh said the position was created when the city was still handling Keizer Station and building the civic center.

“This position is over $100,000 in total costs to the city per year,” Walsh said. “… We’re scrapping over $1,500 here and there. I’m wondering if there isn’t an opportunity to look there.”

Eppley said Kevin Watson, who is the assistant to the city manager, works on a variety of different department projects and is also the city’s emergency manager. If his position were cut, Eppley said, the police would have to take over that function again, and the police captain who used to do it is no longer with the city. The captain’s position remains unfilled, Eppley said, meaning police would have to fit it in when they say they’re already short-staffed.

He also said Watson manages the community center, a duty that would likely fall to him if Watson’s position was cut.

David Dempster, a committee member, said some city positions may need to be cut once the urban renewal district sunsets. Others called for furloughs.

Some parks may not have toilets soon

FRIDAY UPDATE: The Budget Committee restored portable toilets and weed control within Keizer parks Thursday night. The budget still must be approved by the Keizer City Council.

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

As the city looks to close a budget gap, many parks – quite literally– won’t have a pot to pee in.

They’re asking for $1,600 to bring back portable toilets for six parks in the next fiscal year. Currently, Keizer Rapids, Claggett Creek and Chalmers Jones parks have funded portable toilets in the next budget cycle. Keizer Little League Park has permanent bathroom facilities.

Without the restored funding, those at Country Glen, Bob Newton, Ben Miller, Northview, Willamette Manor and Wallace House parks will be taken out by the end of June. There is, included in the budget, toilets for Bob Newton, Claggett Creek and Willamette Manor for a nine-week roving recreation program from June 22-August 19.

File photo

It was a unanimous recommendation from the parks board, Chair Jeanne Bond-Esser said.

The board is also asking that $4,800 be added back for fertilization and weed control. Some board members fear that eliminating the maintenance will only increase costs down the road.

“None of these seven city parks are receiving it this spring, either, due to the freeze in the budget,” Bond-Esser told the Budget Committee on Tuesday. “That makes two consecutive years for the parks not to have fertilizer and weed control once a year.”

As far as park improvements, they will be scarce in the upcoming year. Parks systems development charges – which are not part of the general fund – will pay for an easement from 15th Street to Keizer Rapids Park to pipe water to the park.

Purchase options on two land parcels adjacent to Keizer Rapids are also included.

In addition, the four part-time seasonal workers usually brought in to maintain parks will be reduced to two in the proposed budget.