Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Start of FY12 Budget Process

The first meeting of the Citizen’s Budget Committee was Monday night. The Citizen Budget Committee is made up of the six elected Councilors, the Mayor, and seven citizen volunteers, and they will spend about 30 hours this Spring making sure the City’s budget meets the needs of the community.

The City Administrator and Administrative Services/ Finance Director presented a balanced budget of just over $94 million. Overall, the budget would fund City programs and activities at about the same level as last year. The City’s General Fund and Parks & Recreation Fund, which fund Police, Fire, Planning, Municipal Court, and Parks & Recreation are actually in better shape, financially speaking, than they have been since the Great Recession started in the Fall of 2008.

The proposed budget would reduce the property taxes used for operations by 1.6 cents per thousand. If the voters approve a General Obligation Bond levy to replace Fire Station 2 on May 17, the total tax rate in the next fiscal year will go up by about 10 cents per thousand from the current fiscal year.

Despite the relative health of the tax-supported funds, both the water and the wastewater utility funds are struggling financially. The proposed budget includes potential rate increases of 6% for electric rates, 5% for water rates, and 4% for sewer rates. The electric rates would go up in the Fall, and the water and sewer changes wouldn’t happen until May 2012. The Budget Committee will discuss water and sewer in more detail when the Public Works Department presents their budgets on May 4, 2011.

The proposed budget is about $4 million more than the previous year, for three main reasons – an increase in Oregon Public Employee Retirement System rates, a projected electric wholesale power rate increase from Bonneville Power Administration, and the federally funded Ashland Forest Resiliency Project. City union contracts, the possible construction of a replacement Fire Station on Ashland Street, and general inflation also have caused budgets to rise.

Each of the City Departments will present their portion of the budget to the committee in several meetings in the next few weeks. A schedule of these meetings can be found HERE. The meetings are open to the public and televised live on channel 9, Rogue Valley Public Television.

We’ll blog about this process in the coming weeks and we hope interested citizens will send their comments to

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 19 One Minute Minutes

April 19, 2011 Regular Meeting

Mayor’s Announcements
SOU President Cullinan addressed the City Council asking for support of SB 242, changing the Oregon University System status from a state agency to a statewide public university system. This would mean that tuition paid to the universities would stay with the universities as opposed to being “swept” into the State’s General Fund. Council added a letter of support to the consent agenda.

Consent Agenda.
Consent items were approved including:
1. Annual appointments to the various Commissions and Committees
2. A Resolution to adjust budget appropriations for changes in the wastewater fund
3. A letter of support for SB 242.

Public Forum
Brandon Ducherme expressed concern that the Council only tbled exclusionary zones not eliminated it from being considered at any times..

Keith Haxton spoke of his ideas for installing solar panels on private property with the cost panels being offset by the amount of electricity that they generate.

VIII. 1. Business License Fees.
• Council approved second reading of “An Ordinance Relating to Setting Business License Fees by Resolution”
• Council approved the Resolution establishing Business License Fees at the same level as is currently set by ordinance.

X. 1. Water and Sewer for Siskiyou Welcome Center and ODOT Rest Area.
Council approved ODOT’s application to extend water and wastewater services outside of the UGB contingent on the following:
• The actual construction of the proposed Welcome Center, not a stand alone rest area.
• Limiting the use of City drinking water to interior domestic uses only. City water may not be used for irrigation.
• Adequate funding for maintenance and staffing of the Welcome Center at least when the Center opens. City staff will investigate whether the City can discontinue water and sewer if the Welcome Center is ever closed.
• Providing space for the Oregon State Police office on site

The Council also included a provision that the approval for urban services expires if the Welcome Center and Rest Area are not constructed within four years. The IGA (Intergovernmental Agreement) between the City and ODOT will include these items and is subject to Council final approval.

XI.1. 2011 Citizen Satisfaction Survey.
Council reviewed the results of the Citizen Satisfaction Survey

XII.2. Ordinance annexing the Caldera Property and removing it from Fire District #5.
Council approved first reading of “An Ordinance Annexing Property and Withdrawing an Annexed Area from Jackson County Fire District No. 5.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April 4 and 5 One Minute Minutes

Here is the summary of Monday and Tuesday night’s meetings.

April 4, 2011 Study Session

Council Goal Work Plan. Council reviewed the draft work plan. They expressed concern about not having a study session on the economic development strategy until June 20, and they requested staff come back to Council in fall 2011, to discuss the strategies and actions the City could implement to avoid purchasing Tier 2 power from Bonneville Power Administration.

Clarification of three Council Goals. Council agreed their intent was to create a City Sustainability Plan and assign the task to the Conservation Commission. Conservation Commission can invite the participation of members of other City advisory groups as needed. Councilors will send an email to staff indicating which of the Commission they will meet with to review possible changes to the powers, duties and membership. Council clarified that they want to create a recognition program for people who volunteer for the City of Ashland.

Plaza Improvements. Councilors Chapman and Morris discussed their idea for low-cost and easy-to-implement improvements for the Plaza. Council requested all plans and recommendations be presented to the Council for final approval.

April 5, 2011 Regular Meeting

Executive Session. Council discussed threatened litigation and employment of a public official.

Special Presentations. Oregon Department of Forestry staff presented the City with its 26 annual Tree City USA recognition.

Consent Agenda.
Consent items were approved including:
1. Minutes of the Boards, Commissions and Committees
2. Appointment of Sandra Friend to the Public Art Commission
3. The City’s Risk Management Report
4. The City’s purchasing practices or participation in the national coalition promoting changes in factory working conditions
5. The City Administrator or her delegate to sign the Residential Exchange Program Settlement agreement with Bonneville Power Authority
6. An order amending the 1994 Ashland Gun Club Lease to extend the lease by four months and move discussion of the new lease to July 2011
7. An Intergovernmental Agreement to join the regional Emergency Notification System managed by Jackson County, Oregon.

VIII.1. Public Hearing to allocate Community Development Block Grant funds.
Council approved allocating $30,000 to St. Vincent DePaul to continue their rental/payment utilities assistance program and $163,142 to ACCESS to purchase the affordable housing lots on the Buds Dairy property.

VIII.2. Public Hearing on appeal of a decision to terminate utility service.
Council voted to uphold the staff decision to discontinue City Utility Services to Lisa Grant until the account has been paid in full.

X.1. Caldera Annexation.
Council adopted the findings for the approval of annexation of the properties at 590 Clover Lane that will be used for the expansion of Caldera.

X.2. 85 Winburn Way.
This agenda item is continued to May 3.

X.3 and .4 Homelessness Next Steps.
• Council approved a revised Council goal and a purpose statement for the ad hoc Homelessness Steering Committee.
• Council adopted the resolution creating an ad hoc Homelessness Steering Committee with the inclusion of two Council liaisons. Council also modified the resolution to require the Committee report to the Council quarterly.
• Council approved the appointment of nine citizens to the Committee and the appointment of Councilor Slattery and Voisin as liaisons to the committee.
• Council voted to assign the short-term strategies to the Homelessness Steering Committee except Exclusionary Areas.
• Council voted to table discussion of Exclusionary Zones.

XII.1. Ordinance moving business license fees out of the City Code.
Council approved first reading of the business license ordinance.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Few Updates

There are variety of small things that I thought you might want to know about.

Laurel Street Sidewalk Project. Construction of the sidewalks on the east side of Laurel Street has begun. This is a project funded with federal transportation dollars and is an essential safe route to Helman School.

Downtown Light Poles. Beginning in the next 10 days or so, the City will be repainting the poles of the tall cobra-head street lights in the downtown (the ugly brown ones). We will actually be taking each of the poles down so that each pole can be powder coated and will be reinstalling the poles with new, black lamps. We will first remove the poles in the block of east main between second and third. The freshly painted poles will be installed elsewhere in the downtown, and this will go on until all fifty lights are repainted. No one in the City can remember when the entire pole was last painted, so we are shockingly excited about this project.

Hearing on Transient Occupancy Tax Bill. Last Wednesday, Councilor Chapman testified on behalf of the City, by phone, in front of the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee, seeking some minor flexibility in use of transient occupancy tax for services that are used to promote tourism. The City has advocated for this expansion in the last three legislative sessions, but the lodging industry is strongly opposed to any changes to this law. I do not expect it to pass this session.