By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
The debate over Keizer’s proposed 2014-15 budget of nearly $38 million came down to a $10,000 question Monday evening.
That was the amount Richard Walsh, a former councilor and current member of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, asked for on behalf of the Parks Board. In recent years the Parks Board has had $20,000 to spend.
The proposed new budget cut that in half. Walsh asked for the amount to be restored and received support in his quest from councilors Marlene Quinn and Jim Taylor.
That was all the support he got, however. A motion to add the $10,000 failed by a 4-2 vote, though councilors did unanimously agree to add $4,000 back.
“I’m an opponent of the current budget because I’d like you to change it,” Walsh said during the public hearing on the budget. “We’re talking about $38 million overall. There’s nothing you can do with more bang for the buck than parks. It will make a tremendous impact for very little money. We partner with Keizer’s strongest asset, volunteers. This is the flagship for volunteerism.”
In response to a question from Mayor Lore Christopher, Walsh made his request on behalf of the Parks Board.
“The budget was cut from $20,000 to $10,000,” Walsh said. “We want the $4,000 currently on the table back into it. We don’t have money for the neighborhood parks. This can help with that a tremendous amount. At a minimum we’d like the $4,000, but really we should have the full $20,000 restored. You have a $60,000 contingency fund. Please don’t leave it where it is.”
Walsh noted the Parks Board’s new matching grant program doubles funds; thus $10,000 would become $20,000 but a full $20,000 would become $40,000.
Quinn stood up for Walsh’s request.
“I’m an advocate for the Parks Board,” Quinn said. “I’d advocate putting the $10,000 back in. That means $40,000 for parks that kids can enjoy. This is for the kids of Keizer, for kids to go to the parks.”
Taylor rejected the idea of pushing off the decision to mid-year.
“I’m a little uncomfortable leaving (the funds) in contingency for now,” Taylor said. “This is our decision. It’s up to us to say put it in there now. That’s what I would like to do, rather than wait six months. There will be at least three new councilors. We went through the budget process. I would like to put it in now.”
Councilor Dennis Koho had an issue with the size of the contingency fund.
“The general fund is nearly $9.5 million,” the former mayor said. “The contingency fund is $60,000 out of $9.5 million. That’s terribly thin.”
“They always are thin,” Christopher said.
Responded Koho: “That doesn’t make it right.”
When it came time to vote on adding the $10,000 to the Parks Grant program, Christopher initially voted yes but quickly changed. The motion failed 4-2, with only Quinn and Taylor in support.
A subsequent vote was taken on the addition of $4,000 to the program from contingency. That was approved 6-0, with council president Joe Egli absent.
“I fought for $10,000 more, since it will lead to more,” Quinn said afterwards. “I fought a gallant battle. At least we got $4,000 more.”
Aside from that, there was no discussion on the budget. The budget was highlighted by the addition of four new positions: a computer forensics person for the police department, a code enforcement officer, an information system technician and a midyear patrol officer position for the police.
The total budget is $37,966,400 which includes a general fund of $9.4 million, a $5.5 million sewer fund, $3.6 million for administrative services, $2.85 million for the street fund and $2.8 million for the water fund. There is also $1.7 million for the Keizer Station Local Improvement District fund and $1.45 million for the Transportation Improvement Fund.
The tax rate remains at $2.0838 per $1,000 of assessed value, while property tax revenue is expected to increase 2.7 percent in the fiscal year ahead, which starts on July 1.
At one point during the meeting, Taylor explained the lack of discussion.
“It may seem like we’re going fast, but this has gone through a budget process of 14 people, including all of us,” Taylor said. “A lot of this has already been in discussion. This is the process we go through. We’re not really hurrying through it.”
In recent years there have been requests from members of the Keizer Budget Committee – which includes the city councilors – to add back positions cut a few years ago, but Eppley has emphasized the need to wait and make sure the positions could be sustainable and not just one-year positions.
“I’m always pleased with how well stuff puts together the budget,” Eppley said following Monday’s meeting. “There’s an amazing effort put into it. We have a good process. It’s a shining example of good governance. That was especially the case this year. Staff did a good job of cutting expenses and adding services the budget committee asked for. We were finally in a position to offer sustainable new positions. You have to wait until you can afford them.”
Eppley said the department leadership team “works incredibly well together” and came up with a plan that pleased everyone.
“We threw out ideas, debated them and came up with solutions,” he said. “Susan is phenomenal at putting things together…We have a track record of being very conservative. We don’t hire people we can’t keep.”
Another change came in regards to the Keizer Police Department. Former chief Marc Adams typically pushed for the return of four lost officer positions during the budget season. His replacement, John Teague, would have accepted new officers but emphasized the realization of other departments needed more as well.
“Chief Teague has a slightly different view (than Adams),” Eppley said. “You can see him implementing it.”
In other budget-related items Monday:
• Prior to the start of the regular council meeting, the Urban Renewal Agency budget of $2.26 million was approved unanimously.
• A water rate increase of 4.5 percent, effective in January, was approved. The increase will bring in an estimated $55,000 in new revenue. The water bill for an average single family residence will go up $6.64 a year.
• Storm water rates will go up $0.43 an Equivalent Service Unit per month, also starting in January. The increase is expected to bring in $48,000 in new revenue.
• Higher development fees were approved. For example, partition fees increased from $320 to $860. The subdivision fee and master plan fee are each $2,600 now, up from $1,340 and $1,495, respectively. There are similar increases for zone change, comprehensive plan change and planned unit development.
New fees were added for plat ($325), appeal of a staff decision ($250), appeal of a hearings officer or Keizer Planning Commission decision ($365), cottage cluster partition ($860), cottage cluster subdivision ($2,600) and review of Traffic Impact Analysis ($600).
• A new fingerprinting cost of $25 was approved, along with police photos on a DVD disc for $12 and the actual cost for an officer exam fee.