Tight budget forces CL employees to share health care costs

The City of Cascade Locks is asking non-union employees to pay a share of their health insurance premiums during fiscal year 2003-04.

In previous years, the municipality has picked up the tab for all health benefits. But Robert Willoughby, city manager, said budget constraints and rising costs in both health care and retirement have necessitated a sharing of coverage expenses. However, he said that wage deduction will be balanced out by a 1 percent cost of living increase for nine staffers and a maximum of 2.25 percent for anniversary increases based on performance evaluations.

Willoughby said the city is holding the line on other expenditures during the upcoming year to offset a drop of $49,989 in revenue. The current $8,793,285 million budget includes $3 million in state and federal grant funding. These monies will be used to provide extra community policing and ordinance enforcement hours and support several anti-drug and neighborhood programs. In addition, the funding is expected to cover the cost of painting the reservoir, upgrading the water system, urban renewal efforts and electrical system renovations.

“It is very important that decisions be made about how to allocate our limited resources wisely, with an eye toward the future,” Willoughby said.

He said, in spite of its rural geographic location, Cascade Locks provides many amenities to residents. These services include access to cable television, broadband cable modem service, seasonal cleanup programs, operation of the local historical museum, tourism promotion and involvement in community activities. According to Willoughby, officials are sometimes challenged in their efforts by tough economic times — but are always open to suggestions that can improve the quality of life for citizens.

For example, he said the city is bringing a paramedic on board for around the clock coverage through a new merger. During the coming year, Cascade Locks will pay a contract fee of $63,000 to the City of Hood River for the administration and provision of emergency services.

According to Willoughby, public input about new projects is sought routinely through meetings, surveys and newsletters. If a plan receives strong approval, he said the elected body then seeks to find the funding necessary to bring it to fruition.

“Stable renewable resources must be allocated to the highest priority uses and services, while other programs and projects must wait until sporadic resources are available,” Willoughby said.

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