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Budget priorities

The city of Keizer’s budget season is right around the corner.  The city’s Budget Committee, comprised of all seven city council members and seven citizens have the daunting task of doing more with less.

Recent reports about declining electric and natural gas franchise fees are a sign of the times.  It is expected the city will receive about $110,000 less than projected.

Susan Gahlsdorf, the city’s Finance Director, cited a mild winter, the recession and people “doing without,” for the decreased fees.

Unless—not until—the economy starts to grow at a healthy clip, everyone has to acknowledge that the only way to provide the services the public expects is to cut other areas of the city’s budget to the bone.  That’s not a popular consideration.  But is there much of a choice?

The General Fund Long Range Planning Task Force, comprised of the Budget Committee members, recently rated their budget priorities over the next few years.  Coming in at number one was to fill the vacant police officer positions.  Public safety always rates high when citizens are asked what their civic concerns are.

Policing in Keizer was addressed at the first Town Hall  last month and will be the topic again at the second Town Hall on Tuesday, March 29, 6 to 8 p.m. at the civic center.

Number two and three on the task force’s priority list deals with computers. The fourth item was to address expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary, while the fifth top rate item was to add back cuts to service levels which includes janitorial service at the civic center, administrative services, park maintenance and the like.

In our view fourth and fifth items should be reversed.  As City Manager Chris Eppley wisely said without full janitorial services the civic center’s furnishings could deteriorate faster if that service isn’t stepped up.  In the scheme of things, some may think that adding back janitorial shifts at the civic center is the lowest of priorities.  We’ve spent $18 million for the new civic center and it would be senseless to let it start fraying at the ends for the want of a few dollars.  We need to take care of our new things.

Urban growth boundary expansion is an issue that won’t go away anytime soon; let’s concentrate on the items we have some control over now with the precious few dollars available.