Agendas and Minutes

Citizens' Budget Committee (View All)

Parks, Finance, Community Development

Minutes
Thursday, April 18, 2002

Economic and Cultural Development Grant Presentations

Parks, Finance, Community Development

Agenda

April 18, 2002, 7:00pm

City Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street

 

ROLL CALL

Present: Jim Moore, Alan DeBoer, Marty Levine, David Williams, Diana Goodwin-Shavey, Regina Stepahin, Chris Hearn, Ray Olsen, Russ Silbiger, Don Laws and Cate Hartzell arrived at 8:30pm.

Absent: John Morrison

Staff: Greg Scoles, Lee Tuneberg, Ken Mickelson, Steve Gies, Ann Benedict, John McLaughlin, Adam Hanks, Joanie Baker, Kirsten Bakke

Others: Miles Murphy, Daily Tidings

CALL TO ORDER

Levine called the meeting to order at 7:03pm.

PRESENTATIONS

Parks 3-93

Ken Mickelson, Parks and Recreation Director began by giving an overview of past presentations. He highlighted page 3-94, reviewed Council goals, and said the proposed tax levy for the Parks Department remains the same at $2.09, that it is a status quo budget. He noted the challenges are the same as Scoles and Tuneberg outlined to the committee meeting last week, in relationships to PERS and Health costs. He went on to the Parks and Recreation Fund (page 3-94). He continued reviewing the Divisions in Parks. He discussed the major goals of the Parks Commission, including updating the Open-space Parkland acquisition program and improving and developing a comprehensive public trail system. Another goal, Mickelson explained, was to reduce redundancy and improve financial efficiency between the Parks Department and the City. He said parks would continue to do contract work for the City, the School District, and the Ashland Hospital. He described some of the goals for the Department, which include improving water in the ponds in Lithia Park; continuing to develop North Mountain Park; developing some neighborhood parks, continuing to work on compliance with ADA requirements, and establishing compliance with GASB 34. He walked the committee through performance measures for each division. He referred to page 3-108, and noted that the Youth Activities Levy expires this year.

Moore pointed out that park's organizational chart showed 42.2 people rather than 40.2. He added that under budget changes, the 1% benefit cost is the wrong figure. Mickelson clarified that water from Bear Creek was used during the irrigation season, and this was a significant cost saving. Levine asked about the Capital Budget, which showed a significant variance between the baseline and the proposed. Williams said on page 3-95, Materials and Services also contained a significant variance. Mickelson said one of the reasons for a decrease in capital outlay from the baseline to the proposed is because $50,000 of that was moved up into Rental Repair and Maintenance. It was money for North Mountain Park, because of new GASB 34 requirements, they aren't going to be capital improvements so the money was moved into Maintenance, so it wouldn't have to be capitalized. There was continued discussion regarding park's budget.

Goodwin-Shavey questioned why the full-time police officer was funded out of Parks rather than Police. Levine explained that prior to Measure 50 Parks was totally separate, and they were a customer of the Police Department. There was continued discussion regarding parks contracting police services.

Williams questioned the redundancy of having two departments maintaining the grass in the City for parks, street medians, schools, etc. The Committee discussed issues of redundancy between departments in the City.

Moore asked about the timeline for moving the accounting function for parks to the City Finance Department. Scoles said that the schedule for transition will be different for each function and that with some functions it makes sense to occur at a calendar year and others a fiscal year. Levine mentioned that the Audit Committee was interested in the accomplishment of that as well. He asked if GASB 34 would effect the change over with accounting from Parks to the City, and if there was any advantage related to doing it sooner rather than later. Tuneberg explained that there might be some advantages and they are working together over the next 16 months to be prepared for GASB 34. He said that the GASB 34 transition needed to occur by the end of 2003.

DeBoer said he'd asked Ken to look into what it would cost to take over the school district's exterior grounds maintenance. He proposed that $205,000 a year for two years be added to the Parking Lot for Park's budget under the theory that those grounds are playgrounds and parks, but would be contingent on finding the $205,000 in revenue so the Parks Department wouldn't be effected. Goodwin-Shavey asked if $205,000 would provide a higher level of maintenance, because it's an additional $80,000 over the $115,000 for the current cost of school district grounds maintenance. DeBoer said that he thought much better service could be provided to the public. Goodwin-Shavey said the School District mentioned they have one person who does the grounds for the entire School District, so the $115,000 can't just be for salary and benefits and must include equipment and supplies. Mickelson said they hire seasonal people in the summertime and also allocate a sum of money to each site including maintenance of equipment, and that comprises their budget. Laws pointed out to the Committee the issue of providing temporary money for a permanent problem, thus delaying the consequences.

Goodwin-Shavey asked about the 644 acres of parkland. Mickelson said that, with the parkland acquisition, between 450 and 500 acres were added since 1990. Williams pointed out that a lot of it is open space area. Mickelson clarified that it's all part of the Park system though some is open space. Goodwin-Shavey questioned if there was a gain of 500 acres, or a 400% increase in parkland, was there also a 400% increase in the staff to maintain the parks. Mickelson said historically since 1990, the budget has gone up because of the added cost for the additional parkland, but not to that degree. Goodwin-Shavey pointed out that the acquisition cost is a one-time capital cost, but the cost to maintain the parks is an ongoing operating cost, and a distinction is made between operating and capital costs. She said she was concerned about the staffing impact that could occur from the additional 200 acres that the City is still planning to acquire. There was more discussion about the open space plan vs. parkland maintenance.

Moore mentioned the golf course, saying the performance measures had dropped by 9% since last year. Mickelson said the way they counted rounds had changed this year and perhaps that was the reason there was a decline in number of rounds played, but that there was no decline in revenues, which were up because of an increase in fees. The Committee went on talking about the golf course.

DeBoer motioned to look at adding $205,000 to the Parking Lot for Park's budget for 2 years pending location of revenue to take over maintenance of schools ground. Voice vote: 10 to 1 AYES, Silbiger opposed.

Finance 3-15

Lee Tuneberg, Finance Director, began the presentation by discussing the organizational chart on page 3-15.Tuneberg said last year that 14.0 FTEs were adopted, and that there are two-tenths less this year because finance had funded part of a position to the Community Development Block Grant. He referred to page 3-16 summarizing the three different divisions of the Finance Department: the Accounting Division, Customer Information Services Division and Purchasing. He focused on the summary of the Finance Department on page 3-17, which he pointed out had been consistent with staffing throughout the last three years. He stated that the adopted budget for 2002 was $10.5 million, this year $5.5 million is being proposed, with the difference being in public buildings. He turned to page 3-22 and talked about the operating division's budgets. He said the department had been stable and consistent in costs, there were some materials and services increases for postage, forms, some of the consulting services and studies that have to be done. He said the overall operating budget is about $1.5 million noting that $843,000 is personnel. He said the department has asked for another person on the parking lot this year, and that the department is primarily service and support for all the other departments in the City. He said the demand for the Finance Department's support has increased tremendously. He pointed out that this was why the Department is asking for a 1.0 FTE accounting clerk at $50,000 (the total cost of the position). In reference to what this person would be used for, he said they had had input from different departments asking for more information and also had an audit comment that they needed to do more on grant accounting, which is decentralized at this point. He explained that externally the Departments receive grants, which requires additional reporting reflected in the annual report. He stated that a new person would be used in grant coordination as well as miscellaneous receivables, including land sales, leases, licenses, food & beverage, transient occupancy tax, intergovernmental revenues, and legal compliance. He said nearly every month the City Council and Department heads introduced new initiatives, such as affordable housing, living wage, tobacco licensing, managing parking, financial reporting, or helping citizens pay their bills (the Ashland Low Income Energy Assistance Program). He pointed out that this all demands more staff time. He said the new position would also minimize the overtime, improve employees' skills, and shift managerial work to other employees who could do it better for less money, thus reducing burnout. He said the Finance Department does 144,000 bills year, the content of the bills going up 6-7% per year. He said Customer Services answers 45,000 calls annually.

Levine asked whether an Accounting Clerk earns $50,000. Tuneberg said no, an Accounting Clerk earns about $29,000, with benefits on top of that. Levine asked if they were then getting a value equal to $50,000, and Tuneberg said yes. Stepahin asked where he saw that money coming from. Tuneberg said Finance is a central service department, and they charge other departments for anything they do, which comes out of property taxes, fees, or rates. Williams asked about the new financial reporting model, increased auditing and consulting costs to move to a new financial reporting model, and was the ultimate objective of the model to reduce costs at some point or do a better job of managing the City? Tuneberg said that included in the budget this year is an additional $10,000 for GASB34 presentation. Levine said this was a mandatory change.

Goodwin-Shavey asked about the repeat of significant budget changes on page 3-16. Tuneberg said it was a typo. On Page 4-50 & 4-51 Tuneberg pointed out the ending fund balance of $347,000. Levine asked if there was anywhere in the document that summarized all the parking lot issues. Tuneberg said there was a memo sent out, separate from the proposed budget document, with eight or nine items. There was some discussion about central service fees.

Community Development 3-71

John McLaughlin, Community Development Director, and Adam Hanks, Code Enforcement Specialist began the presentation with an overview of the Department. McLaughlin summarized the 2 divisions: the Building Division, the Planning Division, and overseeing of Community Development Block Grant programs. He said the Building Department provides building inspection services, plan reviews, and enforcement activities. Planning is higher profile and handles current planning activities, subdivisions, new commercial development, and long-range planning for affordable housing, a riparian ordinance, and an amendment to the "Big Box" ordinance. He referred to page 3-72 giving an overview of the budget. He explained that council approved changes to the Community Development Block Grant process this year, taking the allotment of funds to different agencies out of the budget process and making it a separate process. He said the amount seen in the budget now is the amount received from the federal government ($212,000) to run that program. He noted that efficiency had been gained by using the Finance Department to help with reporting. He said previously funds had been allocated to a wide variety of projects, but HUD had advised them to limit the number of projects they fund, so it has been narrowed down to one or two a year. Goodwin-Shavey asked about the $511,000 in the 2002 Adopted Plan, if it included carryover money. McLaughlin said it was carryover money that had been awarded to recipients who hadn't been able to use it within that year, and that carryover is now limited to 1.5 times the annual allotment, and carrying over more will result in penalties in annual allocations. He said that the Building Division has had increases in personnel costs and central service facility charges. He said Building, Planning, and Public Works Administration would pay the fee for the new Hillah Temple. There was some discussion regarding the hire of temporary inspectors. He said they had added an inspector last year in the Building Division and they don't expect to add any more for a while. McLaughlin clarified that the Building Division is fee based, supported by building permit fees. DeBoer pointed out that they had subcontracted Talent for building inspections, and that they are going to pick up some. McLaughlin agreed, saying that since Talent has come off its moratorium Ashland was providing their building inspection services and plan review work, which increase revenues. He said there would be fee increases in the Building Department as well. McLaughlin pointed out that the valuation table is based on a state-adopted table, which was adopted by the Legislature in 1977 and hadn't been updated since. He said it was now possible to adopt a new table that will reflect current values of construction, and the increase in fees will be based on that new table.

McLaughlin explained that the Planning Division has a status quo budget, except for the parking lot position of the Urban Forester. He said the major increases in the Planning budget are coming from salaries and increases in central service charges and facility charges, including the Hillah temple fee, a $21,000 new charge in the Planning Department budget. McLaughlin talked about the goal of recovering about 75% of expenditures through fees, and that they will meet or slightly exceed that this year.

McLaughlin explained the Urban Forester position on the Parking Lot was from last year. The position would meet a wide variety of community needs, including dealing with riparian areas, weed abatement, vision clearance issues with trees, enforcement actions and outreach programs for neighborhood tree planting. He said other staff members carry on many of the duties that the proposed position would have the expertise to cover. He explained that they would like to free up other staff for more efforts in water conservation, and Code Enforcement. Levine asked if the position would be full-time, and McLaughlin said yes. Levine asked if last year the position hadn't been proposed as half time. McLaughlin clarified that they had talked about instituting it in January, when it would be just half time. Levine asked about the cost, and McLaughlin said about $55,000 for that position. DeBoer noted that there was a request to the Council for a forest resource person, and that the Parks Department has a certified arborist, so he would want such a position, if created, to be in the Parks Department. Goodwin-Shavey agreed. McLaughlin clarified that Urban Forester position would not be caring for trees primarily, but rather doing outreach to neighborhoods, landscape plan reviews for new development, going out to new developments and ensuring code compliance. He stated that the arborist for parks is a great resource, but he doesn't handle enforcement action or deal with the neighbors. He said the strength of this new position is that it takes on the role of a planner-type position with the expertise in natural resources. Williams asked if McLaughlin was saying the person would have enforcement authority, such as a policeman. McLaughlin said that the Planning Department has enforcement responsibilities for the Land Use Code, and have the ability to issue citations to people who violate municipal code or conditions of approval, but it's not a police-type responsibility but is enforcement and compliance. He pointed out that Planning's goal is ultimately compliance. He reiterated that the position is also geared to do outreach, whereas the arborist from parks is a great technical resource but does not do neighborhood outreach and organization. Goodwin-Shavey suggested that the Urban Forester position belongs in either Parks or Public Works. McLaughlin said he does not believe it is a Park's position because their role is not to do enforcement of land use requirements, nor to go out to neighborhoods and do outreach; their responsibility is to develop, maintain, and promote the park system. He said that therefore this person's responsibility lies outside of that. Moore said this was different from what the citizens came forward with, which was a position more encompassing. He said they have a good fire plan now for wildfire, but it's divided between departments and there isn't much coordination between them. He continued saying that what the citizens' group wants are to develop an overall forester who would coordinate all three plans, knowledgeable not only in forest management but also in obtaining grants. He also asked about riparian zones and wetlands, whether there were timelines on these. McLaughlin said it was scheduled for this summer. Moore said the Ashland Watershed Partnership is making it a priority to assist the City in moving in the right direction on this. McLaughlin said he'd met with JoAnne several times regarding those efforts. Laws commented that if they would read the job description, which is very well written, they would not think it belongs in the Parks Department. He said it does fit with job descriptions in the Planning Department. He said if it were to be combined with the larger position which the citizens' group recommended it would become a much larger job description and one that would be impossible in his opinion, for one person to do.

Goodwin-Shavey asked if the budget addressed the Strategic Plan goal of developing and implementing long-range funding for affordable housing, which has been high on the City's list of things it wants to accomplish since at least 1998. She mentioned the Housing Commission and City Council had a work-study session where stark statistics were presented saying that Ashland was becoming a "B" city. In terms of the population cohorts, big in the 15 to 24 age group and very big in the 55-64 and up age group. She explained that there had been a 700-person decline in Ashland for the age range 35-49, the family formation and house building years and also the years in which people have children, which impacts the schools, etc. She pointed out that the demand on the Park Department to maintain vacant school buildings is going to be occasioned by the result of having fewer and fewer children if something isn't done about housing. She asked if there was anything in budget that addressed this issue other than CDBG. McLaughlin replied that the efforts being made were in completing the needs assessment, with the next step being a four-month process to look at an action plan for affordable housing. He said in the current Planning Department budget there was $30,000, which included $15,000 in the rental assistance program and $15,000 in a first-time home buyers program. He said until the action plan is completed, the items that have been agreed on and directed by the Council didn't bring anything forward in the present budget for affordable housing. Goodwin-Shavey asked if they could potentially expect to see something next year. McLaughlin replied affirmatively. Silbiger asked if the workload of the Urban Forester position would off-load things McLaughlin's department was already doing and how much would be new things that aren't presently being done. McLaughlin replied that his department already takes on much of the workload and that many duties are already the responsibility of planners, to do landscape reviews or site inspections, or code compliance. He explained that everyone is spread so thin that things are not being done as well as they could be, resulting in complaints. Stepahin commented that she could understand the concept of helping neighborhoods and looking at landscape, but she counted seven particular items in the job description that she would put under Communication and Marketing. She stated that event planning, promoting the Heritage Tree Program, speaking to the news media, conducting workshops, and promoting special celebrations and events were more like public relations. There was continued discussion regarding the Urban Forester position's job description. Williams wondered if this parking lot discussion would be appropriate to postpone until the entire Budget Committee was together. McLaughlin agreed.

Hartzell referred to line 604 on page 3-75, and asked if the difference between baseline and proposed was Talent. McLaughlin said there was an error in last year's baseline. Hartzell asked whether the proposed budget contained the position. McLaughlin clarified that the Urban Forester is not included. Hartzell asked about the difference between the baseline and the proposed on item 610, under Programs. McLaughlin said there was an error in last year's baseline, and it was not a Finance error.

Public Input

Levine opened the meeting for public comment; there was none, so the public portion of the meeting was closed.

COMMITTEE QUESTIONS

Moore asked for the last quarter AFN report to the City Council. Tuneberg offered to mail the AFN report to everyone who hadn't received at the City Council meeting.

ADJOURNMENT

Meeting was adjourned at 9:30pm.

Respectfully submitted by Kirsten Bakke, Administrative Assistant

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