Concerns delay Monmouth budget

MONMOUTH -- Officials will delay the adoption of the city's proposed 2006-07 budget following concerns over a spending increase for the Monmouth Senior Center. Some councilors also raised questions



MONMOUTH -- Officials will delay the adoption of the city's proposed 2006-07 budget following concerns over a spending increase for the Monmouth Senior Center.

Some councilors also raised questions regarding the funding method source for key city hall personnel during a public hearing on the $24.7 million budget during last week's first-ever meeting at Western Oregon University..

July 1 is the start of the next fiscal year. Officials hope to adopt the budget by June 30.

The city's projected $4.4 million general fund, which supports the police, library and other departments, grew by about 5 percent this year.

Cost-of-living increases account for most of the changes, though the city's expenses, $3.59 million, are expected to outpace revenues by about $163,000 in 2006-07.

This will be the third year that the city used contingency funds to balance the budget, which led some councilors to express concern over a few increases for services.

The Monmouth Senior Center, for example, will receive $16,000 more than last year to cover more hours for its program director.

Councilor Marc Miller said while the raise is modest, it was irresponsible for the city to add line items while operating on a net loss.

"Our citizens don't manage their budgets that way; I don't think we should," he said.

Questions were raised by Miller and Councilor Barbara Baxter regarding the funding method for the salaries of the city manager, finance director and city recorder.

Only 10 to 18 percent of their pay comes from the general fund; the remainder is transferred from street, electricity and other utility funds which operate on customer fees.

Finance director Jeff White said the city uses that method of payment -- which has been practiced for decades -- because City Hall handles the payroll and billing for its departments.

Miller and Baxter argued that method creates a public perception of misusing funds.

"When the city raises utility bills, are people going to think its because the cost of service has gone up?" Miller said. "Or because we need raises for employees?"

Both moved to reject the budget, which, if passed, would have starting the budget process over. The request was defeated 4-2.

Councilor Patrick Moser said he is vehemently opposed scrapping the budget, and urged councilors to use its June 22 work session to address line-item concerns.

"Rather than go through the entire budget process again," he said, "let us defeat this motion, which I think is ridiculous, and amend these things afterward."

The city council has the power to revise the budget by an amount of up to, but not exceeding, 10 percent.



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