Retirement crimp hiring abilities

Possible increases to the police fee became one of the most discussed aspects of the coming city budget cycle, but it was far from the only news out of a meeting of the Keizer Long-Range Planning Committee on Monday, March 9. 

Overall, it was a mixed bag of status quo decisions and looming headaches. 

One bright spot is that the city is not expected to raise stormwater rates in the coming year. Typically, the increase is in the range of 50 cents per month. However, the delay of a capital improvement project that had been scheduled for this year means the city will forego the increase. 

The delayed project involves replacing stormwater infrastructure along Shoreline Drive North and Cummings Lane North. 

Keizer’s water rates are expected to increase by 4.5 percent and the money will be put toward continued capital improvements. Despite the increases, Keizer will still have some of the lowest water rates in the region between Albany and Portland. 

“The biggest driver of our rates is not having to treat it,” said Bill Lawyer, Keizer Public Works director. “We pump out of the aquifer, add a bit of fluoride and send it to the homes.”

Keizer Finance Director Tom Wood said property tax revenues are expected to drop by about $60,000 in the coming year. The city is out of large spaces to develop and small, infill developments will not make up for the losses.

The city had to absorb more than $123,000 in accrued time off payments for retiring employees during the past year and expect to pay out another $91,000 in accrued time off payment next year.

“One of the reasons we are seeing this happen is that we have a lot of employees who were hired around the same time and who have spent the majority of their careers with us,” said Chris Eppley. Such payments have ranged from $14,273 a year (2014-15) when two employees retired to $123,000 last year when 11 employees retired. 

With the stock market on a rollercoaster, Wood said there is also reason to be wary of how much the city will be expected to contribute to the Public Employees Retirement System. 

“It could be a $250,000 hit,” Wood said. 

In better news, Wood said the projected budget for the Keizer’s 2020-21 year will be the first since the 1990s to have it expenditures and revenues in alignment. Typically, the city has budgeted for more than it takes in and makes cuts throughout the year. This is the first year, city employees won’t be asked to make those cuts on the fly.