Senior center issue divides Monmouth council

MONMOUTH -- The Monmouth City Council expects to adopt Monmouth's 2006-07 budget before the end of the month. There is division, however, among some members regarding a proposed line item that incr



MONMOUTH -- The Monmouth City Council expects to adopt Monmouth's 2006-07 budget before the end of the month.

There is division, however, among some members regarding a proposed line item that increases the pay and benefits for the director of the Monmouth Senior Center by $16,000.

Officials delayed adoption of the $24.7 million budget earlier this month after concerns arose about that matter, as well as a dispute over the funding method used to pay salaries of city hall personnel.

The city's $4.4 million general fund, which supports the police, library and other departments, grew by about 5 percent from 2005-06. There were no layoffs or service level reductions.

July 1 is the start of the next fiscal year. Officials will meet early June 30 to formally adopt the budget.

Monmouth Finance Director Jeff White said it is a violation of Oregon statute for municipalities to spend money without a budget.

"It's going to pass," Mayor Larry Dalton said. "Nobody is leaving the room until it does."

Councilor Barbara Baxter and Marc Miller had questioned the accounting method used to pay the salaries of of the city manager, finance director and city recorder. Only 10 percent to 18 percent of their pay comes from the general fund. The remainder is transferred from street, electricity and other utility funds because city hall handles the payroll, billing and some adminstration for those departments, White said.

Miller had argued that the accounting method created a perception that utility rates -- which are derived from the Bonneville Power Administration -- are based on employee salaries.

Both dropped the matter at a work session June 22, but asked that those percentages be reviewed during the next budget cycle.

More contentious was a decision to increase the senior center budget by $16,000. Monmouth's budget committee, comprised of council members and citizens, agreed to raise Director Sue Teal's work week from 25 to 30 hours to make her eligible to receive enefits.

"My belief is she needs more than 25 hours to do that job," said Councilor Pat Moser. "That's why I'm in favor of it."

"If anyone wants to look in the mirror and say the senior center isn't worth $16,000, I feel sorry for you," said Councilor Dave Anderson. "It's a bright spot in our community."

Councilor Marc Miller opposed the hike because the city's expenditures will exceed revenue by $163,000 next year, which would mark the third year in a row that Monmouth has drawn on contingency funds to balance the budget.

"We have to decide whether this is a want or a need, and I feel at this time it's a want," Miller said.

"We are creating an obligation for future budgets," he continued. "If we add $16,000 now, we'll have to add $16,000 in the future."



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