By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer budget committee will be presented with some painful choices as deliberations start next week.

Three employee layoffs – one each from community development and police support services along with the assistant to the city manager – are expected to be included in the city manager’s recommended budget presented to the committee.

“Even really well-managed cities like Keizer can’t sustain a three-year recession without the impact of having to lay people off. I would challenge anybody to find a way to do it,” said Mayor Lore Christopher. “I’ve been through several recessions. I’ve never been through a 36-month recession. It affects everybody.”

Meetings kick off at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, at the Keizer Civic Center. The public is welcome to attend and give input. Further meetings are Thursday, May 5 and Tuesday, May 10. If necessary another meeting will be on May 17.

City officials are expecting some revenue sources to go down next year: Salem-Keizer Schools are expected to cut some school resource officer funding, 9-1-1 revenues are expected to fall, liquor and cigarette taxes are projected to decline 13 percent and 3 percent, respectively, with those revenues totaling $110,000 to $115,000. In addition, costs for employee pensions and health insurance contributions are expected to go up $180,000 for the police department alone. Cost of living adjustments for unionized police officers may add $55,000 in costs.

The layoffs are expected to free up about $240,000 total, about $195,000 of that coming from the general fund.

Eppley is also recommending non-represented employees receive no cost of living adjustment and pick up 10 percent of health insurance costs, a jump from 5 percent. That should save about $50,000 in general fund dollars, Finance Director Susan Gahlsdorf said.

A 3 percent water rate increase is the only hike proposed, said City Manager Chris Eppley.

“We’ll be recommending an increase in water rates this year, which was supposed to have taken place several years back to stay on our schedule for capital improvements associated with our water master plan,” Eppley said. “We’ve postponed (them) for two cycles now… to try to offset the economic downturn for our customers. But we’re getting to the point now where we’re starting to forego capital improvements that are safety issues for the system, so we need to get back into taking care of those issues.”

Other cuts will include to training, materials and services and the like. Eppley said there’s not a major building project planned for the general fund in the upcoming year.

The Keizer Chamber of Commerce and Keizer Fire District each were budgeted to receive $11,600 from hotel taxes; that may not happen next year.

“The reasons for receiving that tax have not gone away,” said Keizer Fire Chief Jeff Cowan. “We’re still providing specialty services to everyone who enters Keizer … our justification has not changed, but we understand the financial needs of the city. So we’re going to have to go without.”