City budget for 2020-21 proposes 5.9 percent increase

By Sean C. Morgan
Lebanon Local
City staff will next week present to Lebanon’s Budget Committee a total proposed budget of $69.2 million for 2020-21, a 5.9-percent increase from this fiscal year’s $65.3 million total.
Not counting inter-fund transfers, which inflate budget figures as they are counted as expenses and revenues in various funds, the effective total budget increases from a budgeted $56 million this fiscal year, which ends on June 30, to $62.9 million in fiscal year 2020-21, which begins on July 1, a 12-percent increase.
Of the total $69.2 million budget, $63.3 million is in the city’s budget, while the remainder is in the Lebanon Urban Renewal Agency budget.
The Budget Committee, which includes the City Council, the mayor and six additional members of the public, is scheduled to meet electronically at noon Wednesday, May 20. An additional meeting is scheduled for May 21 if necessary.
Upon Budget Committee approval, the proposed budget will move to the City Council for a public hearing and adoption during the council’s regular meeting at 6 p.m. on June 10.
Interim City Manager Ron Whitlach and Finance Director Matt Apken will present a budget message prior to the committee’s review of budget details. The proposed budget and budget message are available publicly at the city’s website, ci.lebanon.or.us.
“This year, we are faced with a unique and difficult challenge with the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic,” they said in a budget message to the committee. “There is significant uncertainty with revenue. Even with the significant uncertainty and challenge of matching expenses with forecast revenues in several funds, all funds are balanced.”
Overall, the proposed budget decreases city staffing by one full-time equivalent position, they said. The budget grows mainly thanks to the increase in the scope of the Westside Interceptor project, which will expand sewer capacity.
Inter-fund transfers, the one-way movement of money or goods or services from one city fund to another, are down, which decreases the General Fund by $2.6 million, 16.4 percent, because personnel will be allocated across funds rather than making large transfers among funds to cover personnel costs.
While contingencies are down overall 14 percent, from $4.6 million to $3.9 million, the General Fund contingency is down by .61 percent, from $2.008 million to $1.996 million, which exceeds the targeted goal of 19 percent of the fund.
Among the increases in the city’s portion of the budget is a $46,000 increase in personnel costs, to $12.2 million; $142,000 increase in materials and services, to $8.4 million; $7.2 million increase in capital projects, to $28 million; $339,000 increase in contingency funds, $6.9 million; and $599,000 decrease in debt payments, to $6.2 million.
The General Fund is increasing by $1.6 million, with estimated property taxes forecast to be larger next year, thanks to the under-funding of the NW Urban Renewal District. This includes a projected reduction in tax collections. Whitlach and Apken are projecting the rate of tax collection to decrease from 94 percent to 90 percent.
The city is working with the Teamsters union to extend the current contract for one year with a 2-percent cost-of-living allowance, the budget message said. No COLA is proposed for exempt and part-time employees, and AFSCME union employees will receive an increase of $1 per hour as negotiated.
The budget includes no Consumer Price Index rate increases in water, storm water or wastewater utility fees.
Among revenue, the city projects $10.3 million in property taxes, including $2.2 million in urban renewal districts; $2.6 million in licenses and permits; $2.5 million in intergovernmental payments; and $11.3 million in charges for services.
Within the General Fund, the largest budgets are the Police Department at $6.1 million; the library budget at $617,000 and Municipal Court at $548,000. Non-departmental spending is proposed at $4.4 million, which includes contingencies, transfers to other funds and miscellaneous expenses, like insurance, computer expenses, contract services and audit expenses.
Public Works budgets include $8.1 million for the water system, $616,000 for storm drainage and $22.2 million in the wastewater system, which includes the Westside Interceptor project, primarily funded by $14 million in a loan from the state government.
The budget sets aside $830,000 for parks; $846,000 for the Information Technology Department; $1.2 million in street maintenance, down from $1.6 million; and $765,000 for LINX public transportation service,
A copy of the budget document may be obtained by contacting Apken at [email protected] or by phone at (541) 258-4212. However, the City strongly encourages accessing the document on the City of Lebanon website ci.lebanon.or.us.
Written comments may be submitted to the finance director, 925 S. Main St. They must be received by 5 p.m. on May 19. Digital comments may be submitted to [email protected] by 5 p.m. on May 19.