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Budget Bites

City has explaining to do

November 16, 2005

The time has come for creative thinking regarding the City of Hood River budget.

That seems to be what is happening at City Hall, as City Manager Bob Francis and his staff grapple with a $1.13 million budget deficit.

It’s a long-standing problem and Francis is looking at some different ways of overcoming it.

However, the methods need some public education, including as they do now, charging city departments rent, and then reimbursing the general fund for administrative time spent on specific services.

For example, Francis is proposing shifting parking fund revenue to the general fund, to pay for the amount of time he spends working on what is a growing concern.

Such funding methods are standard municipal budget and operations procedures, but that fact is not well known to the public. Given the increased dependence on such funding routes, the need to educate the public is greater then ever. This is especially true if compounded by decreased services and increased fees.

Further, the city needs to make clear their plan of “getting revenue from the places that generate it,” as finance manager Steve Everroad put it.

Municipal budgeting is no simple process, but John Q. Public could not be faulted for wondering why the city is now making a point of finding funds where they are created.

The city also needs to be open to taking a serious look at staffing, given the addition of five positions in the past three years. This is far from a rampant hiring trend, but salaries and benefits must be considered as part of the budget puzzle.

Communication needs to come both ways; through its recent Vision 2020 survey, the city has demonstrated it wants the community’s input.

With pocketbook needs looming as large as they do in our fair city, we urge the administration to do all it can to educate the community on these budget processes.

It may cause a revealing-how-sausage-is-made form of discomfort, but the need is clear even if the processes are not.

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