To the Editor:

One of the three components of Keizer’s motto is volunteerism.  The city’s budget committee is taking this literally. They are volunteering the citizens of Keizer to pay additional fees to support an increase in city spending!

City Manager Chris Eppley’s recommended budget expects revenues to increase 1.8 percent from last year. The revenue increase is even larger if a sale of city real estate is included. Expenditures are expected to increase 9.6 percent. I am very disappointed in the lack of discipline and ability to make the difficult decisions needed to decrease city government spending in order to avoid an increase in service fees.

On the revenue side, I understand that the state law regarding impound fees changed and that NW Natural Gas changed its billing system. These changes resulted in a decrease in incoming revenues.  I also understand that the City will benefit from yet another 3% increase in property taxes in fiscal 2010-2011. The statutory increase is allowed even when property values decrease. A 3% increase from property tax revenues isn’t enough when spending is increasing at a faster rate than revenues. The City’s Budget Committee is looking for even more revenue by increasing licenses, fees, and service charges.

On the expenditure side, I am absolutely shocked at the arrogance of proposing a 9.6 percent increase in spending during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Sure, the expected service fee increase is only estimated to be $13.14 per residence. That isn’t the point. The point is that thebudget committee needs to make the tough decisions to decrease spending. I have lost confidence in the process: The police union voted to maintain their 2 percent salary increase and none of the officers were let go. City employees received salary increases last year and only a wage freeze this year. The Keizer Civic Center was over budget, it had the catering/kitchen issue, and the oversight of the retainage expense at the end of the project. The city has added positions over the past five years, e.g. assistant to the city manager.

This is  not a personal attack on any person or the city. I believe the people involved in this process are all well-meaning. I would ask that the city’s budget committee join the majority of businesses and families that have dealt with decreases in revenue by decreasing spending. If you are a citizen of Keizer and are happy with the status quo, watch Channel 23 on June 7th. If you are not happy, please come to the 7 p.m. public hearing when the City Council is scheduled to adopt the budget.

Phil Gerstner
Keizer