In his budget message to his city council, Lincoln City City Manager David Hawker outlined a “steady as she goes” budget for next fiscal year, starting July 1st. Hawker said the city built up a considerable surplus from 2000 to 2012 but that expenditures have caught up with revenue and so they’re spending down some of those surpluses over the next couple of years.
Hawker says two things should give the city a soft landing. The completion of urban renewal projects, which will return full value property taxes to the city’s central fund, and the annexation of Road’s End which carries with it a huge boost in property tax receipts to the city. However, Hawker recommends the city set aside up to $125,000 for special attorney fees in the event some Roads End property owners sue in an effort to stop the annexation. Hawker and his council have repeatedly said the city has an overwhelming case for annexation from the point of view of the triple majority rule and the fact that Roads End is within the city’s urban growth boundary.”
Hawker says property taxes have been growing at around 2.4% a year but that has not been enough to cover the rising cost of health care, retirement payments to PERS and for fuel for city vehicles, cops and fire included.
As for new revenue, Hawker intimates that there is not much to draw from unless the city wants to charge a franchise fee for sewer and water lines that run through the city’s right of way. Many cities do charge a franchise fee but it really amounts to a surcharge on everyone’s water and sewer bills that goes right into the city’s central fund.
Hawker said that on the expenditure side, the council should put a place marker in for eventually hiring an assistant city manager. Hawker said he has seven department heads and several support staff that report to him. He says it’s hard for one person to perform sufficient oversight with so much going on. He also brought up the idea that “when the current city manager moves on, you don’t want him to take all his institutional knowledge with him. An assistant city manager would have several years experience on the job and would be a near shoe-in for the city manager’s job since he or she would be able to hit the ground running. In the meantime the new assistant city manager would not only assist in general oversight of the city, he or she would also fill-in as Parks and Recreation Department Director until the city turns the corner financially in a few years,” said Hawker. Hawker lamented that his administrative assistant is leaving the city at the end of the month and that her departure will be felt substantially among city administration.
Hawker says the past year has seen substantial improvements in city operations, including the city accepting credit card payments for utility bills and court fines. The city now notifies the city’s bank which checks are being issued for labor and services and their amounts before the checks go out, so check fraud artists can’t develop phony checks because specific check numbers will be tied to specific payees.
Hawker said Lincoln City Police make up nearly a third of the city’s central account budget. He said PERS payments have risen 50% with another raise coming in 2014. He said health insurance in the year ahead is expected to rise 7% and that workman’s comp is expected to rise 17% due to the shooting of police officer Steve Dodds last year. Dodd’s has fully recovered and is back on the beat. His assailant is believed to have drowned while fleeing authorities as they chased him through the Waldport area.
Hawker reports that Driftwood Public Library use is still very healthy, with great interest being expressed by residents and visitors alike, especially in using the library’s website as well as E-books that are downloaded.
He also reports that a new program should help the city collect on traffic fines faster.
He reminded the council that there was a big rate hike enacted for users of the Community Center, which will help pay for an additional employee to be hired there. Recent budget cuts at the center proved to be too deep, according to Hawker and a hire-back will ensure better coverage of the main desk area as well as soccer team coordination.
Hawker said some equipment upgrades have been made to the town’s 9-1-1 dispatch center but hinted that if Lincoln City gets a redundant phone line to the valley, the city might look more closely at joining with Newport and the county in consolidating 9-1-1 dispatch services through Willamette Valley Communications Center based in Salem.
Hawker also envisions major cut backs in the number of special events throughout the year that are supported and run by the Visitor’s and Convention Bureau (VCB). Hawker’s budget plan reduces the number of special events supported and run by the VCB, while preserving proven winners like Finders Keepers (glass floats), both outdoor kite festivals, various cook-offs, one more year of wheelchair basketball, on-going fireworks in the Taft area and one more year for Antique Week. The VCB will also continue to support the Glass Studio and the Culinary Center on the top floor of City Hall. Hawker wants the VCB to place more marketing emphasis on electronic marketing, including public relations. He wants to replace the visitor’s center with outdoor electronic kiosks, outsourcing geo-cacheing and the outsourcing of fulfillment. And much more aggressive use of social media in convention recruitment.
And there is an added plus for town residents which has shown up in City Manager David Hawker’s budget message – making it extremely convenient for townspeople to watch the city council in action, live on the internet. Hawker and City Clerk Cathy Steere are test driving the new system so that citizens can watch the council LIVE on their home internet computers, even on smart phones like Droids and iPhones. The council meeting will still be carried on local public access Channel 4.