Agendas and Minutes

Citizens' Budget Committee (View All)

Joint Budget Committee Meeting

Monday, February 02, 2009


February 2, 2009
Community Center
59 Winburn Way
7:00 p.m.  Joint Meeting

CALL TO ORDER:   The Joint Budget Committee and Development Related Services meeting was called to order at 7:07 p.m. on February 2, 2009 held in the Community Center located at 59 Winburn Way, Ashland, Oregon.
ROLL CALL:   Mayor Stromberg was present.  Councilors Chapman, Lemhouse, Jackson, Navickas and Voisin, were present.  Commissioners Gardiner, Eggers, Noraas and Lewis were present.  Committee members Boenheim, Douma, Gregorio, Heimann, Slattery and Thompson were present. 
COMMITTEE ABSENT:   Silbiger, Everson and Rosenthal were absent.
STAFF PRESENT:                  
Martha Bennett, City Administrator
Lee Tuneberg, Administrative Services/Finance Director
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Scott Johnson, Electric Operations Superintendent
Adam Hanks, Permit Center Manager
Mike Faught, Public Works Director
Betsy Harshman, Public Works Management Assistant
Don Robertson, Parks Director
Bryn Morrison, Account Representative
Jeff Rehbein, Financial Analyst
Melissa Huhtala, Administrative Secretary
Approval of minutes from previous Joint Budget Committee meeting dated 1/5/09. Slattery/Jackson m/s to approve minutes as presented.  All ayes
PRESENTATION BY STAFF:  City Administrator Martha Bennett gave an overview of what would be discussed.  She explained that the meeting on Thursday February 19, 2009 will be held in the Council Chambers.  The presentation will be a discussion on thoughts about revenue.
Director of Community Development Bill Molnar presented the Development Related Services overview.  (See Attached)  Mr. Molnar was joined with Mike Broomfield City Building Official and Adam Hanks Permit Center Manager.  Mr. Molnar discussed the structure of the department; it consists of two divisions; the Planning Division and the Building Safety Division. 
Mr. Molnar explained the functions of the Planning Division, which are activities that are mandated by the state of Oregon and the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD). He explained that one function is the process of land use applications.  There are procedural requirements that are mandated by state law which gives the City a time line to make a decision within 120 days once the application is complete.  Other requirements are a public notice by mail, newspaper and property posting.  Decisions often require review by City Advisory Committees.
Mr. Molnar discussed the planning applications activity levels.  In the last four years there has been a consistency in activities.  Currently the pre-applications are decreasing.  There is a drop in type 1 and type 2 permits.  He explained the type 3 applications are long range.  Some of the long range projects the Planning Department is focusing on are evaluating local, state and regional trends, update of commercial land inventories, and master plan key sites.  For example the Croman Mill Redevelopment Plan and the Wetlands and Riparian Ordinance which is scheduled to go to Council on March 3, 2009. 
Mr. Molnar explained that Code Compliance is another function Community Development handles.  There are many different activities that need this service.  He stated that annually the department completes about 300 cases.  
Mr. Molnar discussed Housing Programs.  The key function for the housing program is to administer the City’s Community Development Block Grant Program.  Community Development receives about $220,000 a year which goes towards project development, negotiating and developing contracts for all new housing projects entering the City’s program, ensure compliance of existing housing stock, and manage the City’s housing trust fund. 
Mr. Molnar provided graphs showing the influence of the housing program and how the Housing Program Specialist’s time is broken down in percentages. (See Attached).
Mr. Molnar explained that citizen involvement is something that Community Development spends a significant amount of time with.  Community Development provides staff and project assistance to Planning, Housing, Historic, Tree and Transportation Commissions as well as Building Appeals Board & Demolition Committee.
Mr. Molnar discussed that another function of staff is to serve on a variety of Ad Hoc Committees and City task forces that are created by the Council.  Over the last year Community Development has been involved with the Downtown Task Force, Siskiyou Boulevard Safety Committee, and SOU Master Plan Committee.  Also ODOT is looking at reconstructing the two interchanges; therefore Community Development has created an Aesthetic Design Committee.
Mr. Molnar discussed the critical core functions of the Building Safety Division. He described the Building Safety Division as activities that are mandated by the state of Oregon Building Codes Division for operation of a full service building department.  He explained that due to Ashland’s size it is unique to have a full service Building Department. 
Mr. Molnar explained what a full service plans review and inspections services functions are. 
Mr. Molnar discussed the Master Permit Program.  This program is available to some of the key institutions in town, such as SOU, City of Ashland the Hospital, OSF and the School District.  This program allows inspectors to do onsite plan review and allows for a quick start up for a routine project.
Mr. Molnar explained the Community Development Department has a one stop plan review and permit approval which is held on Thursday’s. This service is available for minor residential remodels and tenant improvements to mixed-use buildings.  This service has a high demand and construction activity levels are seeing a high activity for re-models.
Mr. Molnar discussed key building permit types.  One concern for the future is commercial development; Community Development is not foreseeing much of an increase in activity for that category.
Mr. Molnar explained the building division staff time is 75% plan review and inspections and 25% is program development. 
The Committee questioned what an example of program development is.  Mr. Molnar answered one example is The Green Building Program.  This is to develop a local green building code.  Online permitting is another project in development.
Mr. Molnar discussed the planning division’s long range planning projects which are the Ashland Railroad Property, updating the downtown plan, and the historic preservation program evaluation and preservation plan. 
Mr. Molnar discussed the Community Development revenue vs. expense history 2000-2009.  (See Attached).  He explained that in 2001 fees were restructured for land use applications so that when a current development application was processed 75% of the cost would be recovered. Prior to 2006 revenue exceeded expenses.  In 2006 to current residential and commercial construction went down.    
Mr. Molnar explained the budget over time for the Planning Division.  The projection is $150,000 less then what was projected for FY 2009. The main reason for the change in projection is primarily the commercial construction market.  He explained the difficulties in predicting the planning for Ashland.  By the end of the month the planning commission will have approved over 115 new residential units from the last 3 months and are anticipating 75 permits in construction by the summer as well as interest for institutional projects.  He explained that the graph provided shows the worst case scenario. 
Mr. Molnar discussed the budget over time for the Building Safety Division.  There has been a change in the residential commercial market.  The revenues started going down in 2006.  He explained that some of the changes in the construction market may be prolonged and therefore expenses will decrease since staff has been reduced in that Division.  Estimated revenue projections have been revised and are $150,000 less then last year due to decrease in commercial construction market.   
Mr. Molnar discussed the Staffing history over the last 10 years.  He explained how changes have been made to overcome the budget shortfall.  In January, 2 long term employees were laid off, and the permit center manager moved to the City Administration Office.  Over all there was a 20% reduction in Community Development staff. 
The Committee questioned if the cuts already made are going to be enough for the year or are more cuts going to be made.  Ms. Bennett answered that if things remain the same the cuts that have been made will sustain until next year.  If things get worse cuts will have to be made. 
The Committee discussed the effect of more cuts to the Community Development Department.  Anymore cuts could potentially dismantle the function of the department.
Mr. Molnar explained that it has been hard already with the cuts that have been made.  The department has had to do some restructuring due to code compliance. 
The Committee questioned the importance of current programs and is it better to keep the programs or remove them.  Mr. Molnar answered that the Council should discuss that issue.  However he feels that the programs are essential especially processing applications and long range planning projects.
The Committee questioned the benefit to Ashland for having the full services program.  Mr. Broomfield answered the advantage is control. By having this service locally it is convenient and timely.  By losing the full service capability a project could be delayed and could raise the cost of development.  Ms. Bennett explained that the key issue here is customer service, the City can set its own customer service standards and can deliver service on its own time. 
Public Works Director Mike Faught presented the Public Works Administrative core services.  He was joined by Public Works Management Assistant Betsy Harshman.
Mr. Faught explained the Public Works administrative services.   The services consist of Administration, Engineering Services, Geographic Information System Mapping & Management.    
Mr. Faught went over the percentages each department used.  (See Attached).
Mr. Faught explained Development Review functions.  He discussed Administration and Engineering revenues and Public Works Development Fee Revenue History.  There has been a decline.  He discussed if the charges are enough for the costs spent.  Development fees represent 14% of total revenues and development related activities represent 13% of total work, which is a good distribution.  Other development related revenues are system development fees which are restricted funds. 
Mr. Faught discussed Public Works service adjustments.  He explained since development is lower it is a good opportunity for Public Works to focus on updating the capital improvement plan, permit compliance, and master planning. 
Mr. Faught explained that there has been an 8% staff reduction totaling $73,000 per year.
The Committee questioned how development fees are determined.  Mr. Faught answered that there is a fee structure to make it clear that Public Works is separate from Community Development fees.
The Committee discussed how the meetings have given a great outlook on what is essential and what is not. 
The Committee questioned who sets the priorities, whether it is Council or Committee.  Mayor Stromberg stated that it is more productive to have everyone involved in the decision process.
Ms. Bennett explained that the next meeting will be the time to discuss priorities and revenue.
9:10 p.m.
Respectfully Submitted,
Melissa Huhtala
Administrative Secretary

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