In a city like Keizer, where financial surpluses to do much of anything seem few and far between, budget committee meetings are spaces where the term “status quo” seems to echo endlessly as administrators join in a common refrain when they present their proposals.
Nevertheless, the meetings persisted over two days, April 30 and May 2, as the committee took a deep dive into the city’s financial workings.
You can view the whole document here, but there were some takeaways as the meeting progressed that shed light into how the city works on a more granular level in departments ranging from human resources to law enforcement.
Here’s some of what the committee and attendees learned:
• The city has two human resources employees and most everything is being done by hand. This is because the budget
doesn’t have enough room for a $15,000 human resources information system software package and $3,000 of annual upkeep on the same.
• The same employees have saved the city roughly $665,000 in the by championing and tracking workers compensation benefits that routinely cost almost a third less than comparable entities across the state.
• Revenues to improve Keizer streets are increasing (by an estimated $400,000) primarily due to a gas tax approved by the Oregon Legislature in 2018 and increases in associated fees throughout the state.
• The easing of those purse strings will result in the pedestrian improvements on Delight Street North in the next fiscal year. The improvements will not quite stretch all the way to the Cummings Elementary School campus, but will be put in place from Chemawa Road North to Dearborn Avenue North.
• Residents can expect a 4.5 percent increase in water bills in the coming year.
• Stormwater bill will increase by 55 cents per equivalent stormwater unit (ESU).
• Sewer rates, which are set by the city of Salem, are expected to increase by 2 percent.
• Keizer water bills are generally some of the cheapest per-gallon around, about 1/3 of a penny, that’s because the city pulls its supply from groundwater instead of surface water, which is the case in Salem.
“We are fortunate that we don’t have to treat our water. We pump it out of the ground, add a little fluoride and send it to homes and businesses,” said Bill Lawyer, Keizer Public Works director.
• Cutting the cord from cable and landline telephone services is resulting in a tangible decreases in franchise fees paid to the city by corporate overlords. Telephone franchise fees are projected to fall by 17.7 percent. Cable television fees are falling by 7.8 percent. Both declines follow recent trends.
• Revenues from liquor sales are projected to increase, from $635,000 to $650,000. Actual sales in 2018 outperformed expectations to the tune of $23,000. Revenues on cigarette sales are down 2.5 percent.
• Those cutting the cord are finding relief from boredom in other pursuits, apparently. Last year, the city projected collecting $80,000 in revenue from a sales tax on marijuana, it will actually collect about $220,000. The latter amount is being carried forward as the projection for next year.
• Don’t ask anyone at the city to discuss this money or where it comes from. They can’t. Oregon statues prevent them from divulging anything bordering on specifics out of fear that someone might reverse engineer what each shop pulls generates in sales.
• For those of you reaching for the calculator, Keizer has four marijuana shops. The sales tax on marijuana is 20 percent (17 percent state tax and 3 percent local tax). After processing fees, Keizer gets most of the 3 percent and an allocation from the 17 percent collected statewide.
• By shifting around some duties as the result of a police fee to hire new officers, Keizer Police Chief John Teague estimates the Keizer Police Department (KPD) gained the equivalent of 1.5 new detectives. The achievement was reached by moving some Department of Human Resources reporting duties from the detective unit to school resource officers, Teague said.
• A labor dispute in which the KPD sergeants are seeking union representation has cost the department roughly $30,000 over the last year and nothing is yet settled.
• Collections on traffic citations are up (from roughly $200,000 to $260,000) and expected to increase by at least another 10 percent in the coming year (projected at $286,000). Still, only about 50 percent of citations issued are ever paid and the city has to keep pursuing them at some level for at least 20 years.
• KPD will soon be the proud owner of large cargo container. That’s because the department seized two vehicles as part of major criminal investigations and must now hold onto them for the next 60 years while all possible legal challenges are exhausted. The cost to taxpayers is $4,000, initially, plus whatever it takes to keep them from rusting into oblivion between then and now. The location where the container will be kept is not being divulged.
• Payments to the Willamette Valley Communications Center (9-1-1 dispatching services) are going up from approximately $469,000 to $502,000, or 7.1 percent. A portion of the fee is paid through a 75-cent service charge on mobile and landline phones, but it’s not nearly enough to make up for the cost. Teague said there are proposals in the Oregon Legislature to reduce the impact on local agencies.
• Rental revenues at the Keizer Civic Center are up, but the operation still relies on about $30,000 annually from the collection of a tourism and occupancy tax (TOT).
• With the addition of a second hotel at Keizer Station, revenues from the TOT are expected to climb. Tim Wood, Keizer’s finance director, reported that fourth quarter revenues from 2018 amounted to almost half of what the city got on an annual basis prior to the new hotel coming online.
• The Civic Center hosted 569 events in 2018 and already has reservations for 650 on the books this year.
• An increased portion of the TOT revenues will be directed to the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s allocation will increase from $8,500 to $16,000.