Monmouth to tighten city budget belt

MONMOUTH -- Staffing levels in the city's building department will be reduced next fiscal year because of a drop in local construction activity.

MONMOUTH -- Staffing levels in the city's building department will be reduced next fiscal year because of a drop in local construction activity.

That's one of the few significant changes included in an otherwise "status quo" municipal budget of nearly $23.96 million for 2008-09, Monmouth City Manager Scott McClure said.

A committee comprised of officials and community members approved the document in April. City Council will consider it for adoption following budget hearings in June.

Overall, the budget -- up about $1 million from 2007-08 -- will allow the city to maintain current service levels, add slight enhancements to some departments, and address capital needs for utilities, McClure said.

The building services budget dropped by more than 30 percent from last year to $170,000. The department will lose a full-time clerical employee. An inspector position will get half of its funding through the general fund and will now include expanded code enforcement duties.

The department is a "closed" fund that essentially operates on revenue from building permits, McClure said. It issued 383 commercial, residential and alteration permits last year; totals were 563 and 614 in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

"The same thing is happening nationwide with the overall slowdown in the housing market," McClure said. "About the only thing keeping our department occupied now is construction on (Western Oregon University's) campus."

Dollars from a projected $1 million reserve fund will be used to balance the budget, McClure said.

Monmouth's total assessed value -- $329 million -- will jump by 5.38 percent in the coming fiscal year. Property taxes account for 28 percent of all general fund resources.

General fund revenues grew by $192,604 -- or 5.16 percent -- because of increased property tax collections, moderate franchise fee growth and transfers within departments.

Personnel costs grew by 3.55 to 3.75 percent to accommodate cost of living and salary step increases. Health insurance expenses jumped by 10 percent.

Mark Dunmire, city finance director, said other personnel changes will result from reallocating resources from various departments.

A vacant planning secretary position won't be filled this year, while a half-time finance clerical spot will be increased to full time to support the municipal court system.

Police department funds once used to pay reserve officers for part-time code enforcement will instead be used to cover a full-time code services officer, Dunmire said. The result will be more aggressive code enforcement on issues such as parking, he also said.

The biggest budget changes between this and last year were made in Monmouth's enterprise funds -- the utility funds that generate revenue through user rates. About $5.4 million in capital projects are due for the sewer, water and power systems.

Treatment plant, effluent, and infiltration and inflow improvements are planned for 2008-09; as such, the city will likely raise customer rates by 10 to 15 percent.

Monmouth Power & Light is projecting $2.4 million in capital construction, including completion of a transmission line and substation in the southern part of the city.


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