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Sutherlin finalizes its 2019-2020 proposed budget

Max EgenerMay 20, 2019

Sutherlin is in a stable financial position ahead of adopting a new budget, according to Sutherlin City Manager Jerry Gillham and Finance Director Dan Wilson, and will even add in a fund for emergencies.

In April, the Sutherlin Budget Committee approved its budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The City Council will vote to adopt it before June 30.

Gillham said no city services are being cut, and the city’s stability will allow for a year of planning for new projects.

“The one unique element of this budget that does allocate additional resources is based upon the recent and significantly impactful winter storm,” Gillham wrote in his budget message.

This year, the city budgeted $288,000 for emergency preparedness measures.

“The one thing that we learned after doing an after action review is that we’re on our own for the most part for the first 48-72 hours of any emergency, and we need to be able to keep going for that period of time until maybe regional or federal resources can come help us,” Gillham told The News-Review.

In order to ensure power sources, the city will purchase generators for city hall, library, community center and the water pump stations. It will also use $3,000 from the public works operations fund to purchase a snowplow blade for an existing city truck.

The city will spend up to $100,000 for building upgrades to make city hall a better emergency management center, reorganizing the floor plan of the the community development department and installing tech advancements to the conference room.

Gillham is one of five city officials trained in emergency management.

“We’re going to integrate an emergency operations center in our conference room,” Gillham said. “What we’ve discovered is that city hall itself is a perfect location for an emergency operation center.”

Although it isn’t currently addressed in the proposed budget, the city wants to purchase a reserve fuel tank for city vehicles. Officials also want to bolster communication reliability during power outages and better prepare the community center to accommodate people in need during emergencies.

Prior year contributions to the parks/facilities and water reserve funds will be transferred to pay for the emergency preparedness measures, according to Wilson.

The city will have 45.95 full-time employees for the coming year. Besides capital projects, personnel services account for the greatest share of city expenses at 16.6%. Overall, personnel expenses will increase 5.3% compared to last year’s budget.

Police Department salaries will increase two percent, according to prior labor negotiations. Other represented and non-represented employees will see three percent salary increases.

While obligations to the public employees retirement system will increase substantially this year, Wilson said the city is currently in a position to handle it.

“Right now there are definitely increases, but with the number of staff that we have and the way that we’ve positioned our budget over the last five years, we’re able to absorb these costs fairly well at the moment,” Wilson said.

Personnel changes from last year include increasing the Sutherlin Municipal Court clerk position from part-time to full-time. The city also recently finished reorganizing fire department personnel.

Although last year the city budgeted for five full-time fire department employees, only two and a half full-time employees actually worked. A fire services working group concluded the city should budget a part-time fire chief, a part-time deputy fire chief and three battalion chiefs, according to Wilson.

Gillham said after last year’s projects, including wastewater treatment plant improvements, which are still underway, the installation of downtown holiday lighting and construction of a parking area at Ford’s Pond, the city will use this year to plan for upcoming infrastructure and other projects.

“In other cities I’ve been in, the budget hasn’t been strong enough, and you’re reacting every year to something breaking down,” he said. “In our particular circumstance, we have the ideal mix of a great citywide strategic plan and a healthy enough budget to sustain us in between federal government funding cycles.”

Gillham said those two things will allow the city to seek grant matching funds for projects.

Upcoming priorities are the completion of a street maintenance analysis and funding plan, a 20-year transportation plan, a water system master plan, a system development charge analysis and funding plan and an urban renewal district feasibility study.

Gillham said he’s excited to further develop plans to build a walking path around Ford’s Pond and to work with Oregon Only LLC to potentially bring in an amusement park.

“We’re going to go into next year not having spent a lot so we can go forward with these projects,” Gillham said.

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