Saturday, May 18, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
If a proposed bond measure fails to pass in May, Independence may endure deep cuts to city services including public works, police, library staffing and its pool operation.
February 19, 2013
INDEPENDENCE -- "We knew it was going to be bad," Independence City Manager David Clyne said. "We didn't know it would be this bad."
City leaders announced general fund reductions last week that would take effect if a proposed bond measure to support town services doesn't pass May 21.
The suggestions are sobering.
The city would lose several employees from its police and public works departments. Reductions to Independence Public Library would reduce its hours of operation by half. The Heritage Museum and public pool would be closed.
"This is taking staffing levels down to when the city had half the population it does today," Clyne said.
The city's budget committee has met several times during the last two weeks to weigh in on cuts for an alternate budget that must be adopted if voters reject a proposed $4.5 million general obligation bond in May.
A successful bond and restructuring the town's debt on some capital projects would keep services at their current level. Without those, Independence has to find a way to shore up a $692,000 deficit for the 2013-14 general fund, Clyne said.
"We've worked with our department heads for these considerations for quite some time," Clyne said, noting the budget committee gave consensus on priorities using a ballot approach.
* Independence Police Department would lose a sergeant, a patrol officer and a community service officer responsible for code enforcement. A records technician position would be scaled to half time.
* Public Works would lose two full-time employees and one part-time worker.
* The city recorder's position would become a half-time job. Independence would either move its building inspector to half time, or start contracting that service.
* Two library employees' jobs would be moved to half time. Some support staff would be laid off.
* Other reductions include closing the pool near Henry Hill Elementary School, eliminating all paid staff at the Heritage Museum and halting funding for a coordinator for the River's Edge Summer Series.
Clyne said the city has halted or delayed all major projects and looked at furlough days.
"We don't believe those would be effective," Clyne said of the latter. "There would be little savings ... we don't have a large enough workforce."
Clyne noted that city employees represented by unions have had no cost of living adjustments in the last two or three years. Small raises for officers and office staff are scheduled next year -- per contracts -- that are "well below market value," he added.
"It's really bleak," said Kathy Martin-Willis, a budget committee member. "There was no joy in our decision-making process ... the cuts are deep and they will impact our community in significant ways."
* For more information on the city's financial state and to learn about upcoming public forums on the matter: www.ci.independence.or.us/citymanager/city-finances-and-challenges.