Monmouth passes 2017-18 budget

MONMOUTH — The Monmouth City Council approved the 2017-18 budget after a rather lengthy process, City Manager Scott McClure said.

“We had more meetings this year,” he said. “We were pretty thorough. The budget committee proposed cuts and revenue sources.”

One of the issues was that the city had been drawing down reserves to make improvements.

“We had to get things back in balance, and had to absorb the PERS hit this year,” McClure said, referring to the increases in the city’s contribution to the Oregon Public Employee Retirement System.

At one point in the budget process, McClure said the city was considering cutting a police officer position.

“By the time they (the budget committee) got done, they added back a couple more revenue (streams) and we got the officer back,” McClure said.

A few departments were reorganized and streamlined, including the finance department and the police department, he said.

“We maintained the staffing level there without having to lose the officer,” McClure said.

The police department will now have a lieutenant and three sergeants, he said.

“We’ll have one less police officer, but the intent is now the sergeants will be in the field more, so you make up for the officer by having the sergeants have more patrol,” McClure said.

The entire budget process had a lot of ups and downs, he said.

“We knew we were going to have more work this year to make sure we got through it,” McClure said. “The committee did a great job and stuck to policy. Instead of rubber-stamping and saying, ‘OK, sounds good,’ or spending time focusing on how many screws and bolts are you buying, they stuck to services provided.”

On the initial budget, McClure estimated local marijuana tax revenue at $30,000 a year. He said he was surprised when, right before the last step of finalizing the budget, the city received $76,000 from the state for its share of the state marijuana tax.

“We got things balanced with that,” he said. “We also increased our internal franchise fees, the fees we charge to water, sewer and electric. The good news is our electric and sewer funds are doing OK right now, so it didn’t translate to an increase.”

Two surprises for the city’s utility funds came for water and electric, McClure said, which will mean rate increases in the near future.

As far as water goes, a well wasn’t functioning properly and needed attention, McClure said. The surprise expense for the electric fund was brought by the Oregon Department of Transportation’s project on Highway 99W. ODOT is requiring the city to remove all of its utilities from the highway’s right-of-way.

“The idea is we are a guest in their right-of-way,” McClure said. “So if they say we have to move, we have to move.”

The bottom line: Monmouth’s general fund is back into a good place, and though multiple departments contracted some services, it didn’t get at the heart of operations, McClure said.

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