OCCC Interim President Bruce Koicke to Newport City Council: Tuition free to high school grads with a 3.5 GPA, also the VAC back in the news, and trying to figure out “WHERE ARE WE?” with the city budget.
Oregon Coast Community College Interim President Bruce Koicke told the Newport City Council Monday night that while community colleges across the state are experiencing decreased enrollment, largely due to an improved economy, enrollments at Oregon Coast Community College continue to rise. Koicke said that enrollments last year were over 7% higher while the rest of the state declined by 4.7%.
Koicke also outlined that graduating Lincoln County school students can attend OCCC tuition free if, among other things, they graduate with a 3.5 grade point average. Eligibility determined by their application, according to Koicke.
Although they continue to maintain that the Visual Arts Center is not for sale, the council none-the-less approved spending some money to clarify the exact lot lines of the center atop its perch above the Nye Beach Turnaround. Councilor David Allen was quick to point out that the action does not portend the sale of the VAC but rather a housekeeping move to clearly define the lot the VAC sits on. Interim City Manager Ted Smith said that the city’s Infrastructure Task Force is analyzing all city assets and revenues as well as expenditures, both present and forecasted for the near future. He said all city assets and revenues include the VAC so that the task force can be thorough in its analysis. It is not a call to sell the facility – only to show it as a part of a complete picture of what resources the city has in order to meet its needs.
City officials say that there are a number of ways the city can meet those needs without selling the VAC or any particular valuable asset. However, until the city has a global view of its needs and all sources of revenue, it won’t have a clear picture of how to be smart about future spending vs. revenues.
Interim City Finance Director Bob Gazewood Monday night tried to give the city council a snapshot of the city’s financial condition. But, for starters, based on discussions between Gazewood and Public Works Director Tim Gross, the numbers were not adding up in the city’s wastewater fund. Gross offered some explanations as to the discrepancies and questioned Gazewood’s numbers and their origins. Gazewood said he could only work with the numbers as he found them and that, in so many words, he’ll have to get back to the council on that. City Councilor Mark Saelens said it sounds to him that financial policies, city wide, as to what category certain monies are applied to are clouded by inconsistent applications by those doing the financial reports.
Gazewood told News Lincoln County that the city’s general financial health has been maintained by financial reserves, and in general, from what he can see, expenditures have lately exceeded income. He said reading a city budget is very complicated; far more difficult than your average family budget because unexpected costs come up while expected revenues might falter. Gazewood says budgets are constantly changing but he told the council that when all the right monies are in the right categories and all the costs are tabulated, he’ll deliver his report to the council within a couple of months. He’s told News Lincoln County that it’s not about any threat to the city’s financial solvency but rather it’s about the city council’s policies about finance that don’t line up – not because of anything deliberately done wrong. Gazewood says these kinds of policies vary sometimes, city to city. Gazewood strongly hinted that Newport’s process has drifted over a number of years which is hard to keep track of. But again, Gazewood says there’s nothing illegal going on that he can see.
(As an editorial note: With Newport having such a revolving door on city managers over the past ten years (city managers are THE budget officer), and with such high turn-over of city councilors, (and a bit in the finance department) the execution of complicated budget policies and goals would be difficult to manage or enforce based on such inconsistent oversight.)
Mayor Roumagoux announced “We need to keep our hands out of the general fund, and how we define our operating expenditures and revenues.”
A city task force studying costs and revenues for water, sewer and streets, including what the city is charging for services or what assets the city might sell off or what loans or bond levies might be explored, will also be making a report to the council well before budget planning begins for 2013-14 some in January.