As the June 30 deadline approaches for all Oregon municipalities, Keizer City Council is in the final discussion and public hearing phase for the proposed Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget of $59.4 million.  

If that seems like a lot as compared to last year, that’s because it reflects the $8.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, inflation and the rising cost of fuel and services – and some of those ARPA funds will be used to enable K-12 students in the region to utilize the Cherriots bus service at no cost.

Cherriots Board President Ian Davidson appeared in person to request funding to re-start a youth bus-pass program which had been discontinued more than a decade ago. Davidson described the program as an intergovernmental project between Keizer, Salem, the Salem-Keizer School District (SKSD), and “fingers crossed, Marion County as well,” he said.

He said Cherriots had used prior funding sources to reduce youth bus fares to $.50 since 2017, but that still creates an obstacle for many students. He is proposing to manage the program as a one-year pilot which would be discontinued if it didn’t prove successful – although Davidson has high expectations.

“I’m confident that it will be successful,” he said, explaining the program would be completely free for students, who would likely have a sticker added to their student ID cards or some other equally simple method for students to access the benefit.

Youth councilor Miranda Coleman, who was attending her last city council meeting before graduation, pointed out that for many people in the community – if they can’t take the bus, they can’t get to school. 

This was echoed in the comments from the other councilors, and Davidson pointed out that the program would provide more than just access to school.

“For a lot of young people, being able to get around easily means they are able to hold down a job or participate in after-school activities,” he said. “And oh by the way – student participation in after school activities directly corresponds to increased graduation rates.”

The council approved Davidson’s request for a flat $30,000 from Keizer via the ARPA funds. He said he is requesting $150,000 each from Salem and SKSD to support the program. At the conclusion of the pilot program a year from now, he said he would return to the council and provide the city with data about how it went.

The other late-addition to the budget discussion was Public Arts Commission president Lore Christopher presenting an amended funding request for $6,000 in order to purchase art for the city to display. Christopher broke down how that money would be spent on individual art pieces, and Wood added that the increased line item also reflects the cost of maintaining the city’s growing number of public art installations.