Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 18 Weekly Update

Council - There isn't much that you don't already know this week.

Last Phase of Budget Adoption. Thanks for all of your hard work in the past three weeks on the Budget Committee. I thought the Committee and staff worked really well together this year, and I hope you do as well. Council will hold the last formal hearing on the 2010-2011 budget on June 1, 2010 at your regular Council meeting. If you know of anyone with an opinion to share on this year's budget, please invite them to offer comments to the Council at this public hearing. People can also email their written comments either to the Comment to the Council listserv (comment_to_the_council@list.ashland.or.us) or by sending them to Barbara Christensen (christeb@ashland.or.us) or Bryn Morrison (morrisob@ashland.or.us)

PERS Issue. On Friday, David Chapman and Mike Faught happened to be in Salem at a League of Oregon Cities Transportation Policy Committee meeting. Councilor Chapman spoke to League staff, and League staff followed up with a call to me. I told staff that the City would likely send a letter to the Human Resources Policy Committee asking for continued work by LOC with the Legislature and the PERS Board to minimize and control the effect of Tier One benefit costs so that cities don't have to cut essential services to fund retirement benefits. League staff reminded me that in 2003, the Oregon Legislature did pass a bill to attempt to better manage the Tier One costs (it allowed the PERS Board to reduce allocations to accounts, to reduce benefits, and to refuse to give Cost of Living Adjustments to retirees). That law was thrown out by the Oregon Supreme Court in a case called Strunk, et.al., v. Public Employees Retirement Board (PERB), et.al. in 2005. The opinion by the court is 92 pages long and it is very complicated. The net effect is that there isn't much the Legislature is likely to do as a result of this case. The Legislature did create a major reform in 2003 that applies to everyone hired since then.

Scott Winkels also shared that Ashland's increase is likely to be on the low end (close to or maybe even less than 6%) because we do not have significant unfunded liabilities. Also. the rate increase could be lower if the investments income for PERS continues to increase this calendar year.

Chamber of Commerce Board Meeting. The Mayor, Councilor Voisin, Adam Hanks and I all attended the Chamber of Commerce Board meeting on Thursday, May 13. There was much discussion about National Tourism Week, Downtown beautification, and the plans for the Fourth of July. Sandra and Meiwen Richards also reported on a meeting they attended with the Oregon Business Council in their efforts to update the Oregon Business Plan. The group discussed the growing divide in Oregon between government and business, and we talked a little about ways to develop an agenda for the issues we agree on. The Chamber of Commerce is also part of a coalition that is welcoming some VIPs from China to the Rogue Valley on June 4, and the hope is that will improve some trade and will lead to more tourists from China choosing Oregon and the Rogue Valley as a destination.

See most of you at this week's Council meeting. Please let me know if you have questions.

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