Agendas and Minutes

Citizens' Budget Committee (View All)

Budget Committee Meeting

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Budget Committee Meeting
April 21, 2011 6:00pm
Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street
The Budget Committee Meeting was called to order at 6:01 p.m.
Mayor John Stromberg, Committee Members Keith Baldwin, Dee Anne Everson, Douglas Gentry, Chuck Keil, Michael Morris, David Runkel, Russ Silbiger, Dennis Slattery, Roberta Stebbins, Lynn Thompson and Carol Voisin were present.  David Chapman and Greg Lemhouse were absent.
There was no Public Input.
Community Development     
Director of Community Development Bill Molnar was joined by Senior Planner Brandon Goldman and Building Official Michael Grubbs to present the Community Development budget presentation.  Mr. Molnar reviewed department organization.   Community Development consists of two divisions: a Planning Division and Building Safety Division.  Within those two divisions, there are five program areas:  Current Planning - which is general zoning,  Long Range Planning - which is comprehensive planning, Code Compliance in the City- which is primarily land use,  Building Safety Division and Housing Program.  Mr. Molnar discussed the Budget Overtime for Community Development (see attached slide).  Compared to last year, there has been approximately 4% decrease in the budget.  This is primarily a flat budget.  Decrease is due to decreases in the Ashland Fiber Network debt as well as facility payments.  The numbers do not include Community Development grant funds, because they fluctuate over the years. 
Mr. Molnar went over the breakdown of Materials and Services and Salaries and Benefits (see slide) with Salaries & Benefits at $1,168,382 (57%) and Materials & Services at $863,606 (43%).    
Mr. Molnar reviewed the work coming for the Department in detail (see slides).  Mr. Stromberg inquired if we have worked out the problem with the growth rate regarding the Regional Plan Adoption Process.  Mr. Molnar responded that the County has been open and supportive of the Cityís position, the Planning Commission is endorsing it and we will not know until the Board of Commissioners has their discussion.
Mr. Molnar reviewed the Matrix for Performance Drivers.  This includes Current Planning, which is the zoning processing and commercial site review. It is important to provide a clear and responsive process.    Mr. Molnar noted the initial results of 80% of land use applications were complete and they look to improve that goal.  The different category types and average number of days for completion was discussed.  It was noted there are a lower number of applications than three years ago.  The application process was discussed for the different category types.  Mr. Molnar presented the Survey After Process shows 50% were satisfied with process as a 2011 goal.   Ms. Stebbins noted a 50% satisfied goal doesnít sound very hopeful and maybe the satisfaction is just too broad a term.  The goal should be higher.  Mr. Molnar agreed and is trying to determine if they were satisfied with the level of process provided.  They are looking for ways to engage the community.
Mr. Molnar moved on to the Housing Program section (see slide).  Ashland is an entitlement community and generally receives a quarter of a million dollars in Community Development Block Grant funds (CDBG).  They were successful in awarding the funds they received and carryover funds in previous years.  General goal overtime was 10% of housing units secured as affordable units.  Met that goal with 9 out of 42.  The recession has made affordable housing projects more attractive, land prices have gone down, construction costs are more competitive and Federal expenditures for affordable housing is still available. 
There was discussion that this category took a hit in Congress.  Mr. Goldman responded that a 16.5% reduction is anticipated and those numbers are reflected in the budget.  Keeping this in mind, projects this year are able to go forward, however, they will not have as deep of funding.   Funding for the Housing Program was discussed and Mr. Goldman advised that the CDBG funds 48% and the remainder is through the Planning Division.  Other new housing development is created through State funding or private developers.  The Committee discussed the 16.5% reduction would affect the Housing Specialistís salary.  Duties of the Housing Specialist were discussed.  Mr. Stromberg asked how many affordable housing units are in Ashland.  Mr. Molnar responded there were 170 as of 2010, 93 in 2008, it is cumulative.
Mr. Morris asked how the deferred System Development Charges (SDC) and deferred fees are allocated. Do you set a cap and how do you work that into your budget?  Mr. Molar said in the last few years there was a disproportionate amount of affordable housing units to market rate.  They have deferred a considerable amount of SDCs, Community Development and Engineering fees.  As some communities have done, they do set a cap, itís first come first serve. It primarily comes out of Public Works.  They do not count it as revenue.
Mr. Molnar addressed the Code Compliance Program; breaking it down into two categories: response to complaints related to public safety and environmental hazards within 24 hours and more general complaints within 72 hours (see slide).  They are looking at ways to make it easier to contact the Department with complaints.  There has been expanding of the City web page to contact Code Compliance instead of making an appointment and coming in to fill out a complaint.  Around 50% via the web and working to improve that.  Response times were discussed and clarified.   Code Compliance funding was cut in December 2008.  A certain percentage of complaints are tied to development projects.
Mr. Molnar discussed the Building Safety Division (see slide).  Plan reviews typically are within a three- week period, with variables affecting that timeframe.  Three weeks is a standard of the Oregon Building Codes Division.  The online permit/one stop shop is expediting the permit process and they continue to improve its use.  Over the counter is a once a week opportunity.   Online permitting is limited in size due to certain projects.  The grey water process was discussed to enable the public to install these systems.  The Department has a goal to have a grey water policy in place before the year is up.
Mr. Molnar went over the Performance to Budget (see slide) and continued to the Preparing for FY 2013 slide.  They have seen a noticeable increase in building development, not only in revenues, but levels of activities in general.  If this continues, they may have to consider an increase in staff.  The Committee discussed the Departmentís long range and comprehensive planning, personnel needs, need to streamline the system, percentage of fees versus expenses, the reissuance of the Zucker Survey Report, and itís accomplishments.  Mr. Molnar pointed out within the last 24-30 months some of the projects included the Croman Mill Project, Wetland Ordinance, SOU Master Planning, Extension Ordinance to deal the with recession, FEMA Map Provisions, Urban Renewal Study, and Sign Code Provisions.  The Committee commented that it would be helpful if these projects were included in the slides.
Mr. Molnar addressed the proposed Add Package (see slide) to develop and adopt an Urban Renewal Plan.  It would allow the City to be a partner in potential economic development efforts with revenues available to invest in public infrastructure from Urban Renewal.   This would be a one time expenditure, estimated at $85,000 with plans set for a 25 year period identifying a list of projects.  The Commission discussed the benefits, costs, why an outside consultant and the opportunities this feasibility analysis would bring to the City.
Mr. Molnar discussed the Budget Over Time (see slide) involving water and energy conservation programs.  Historic use of energy and water was reviewed, showing no increases as the population grew.   The Department continues to implement energy water conservation programs to reduce usage, including commercial lighting.  An add  package for a Conservation Manager is proposed and the general duties of the position were outlined.  Ashland has been a leader in conservation, sustainability and climate action efforts.  The Committee discussed the reasons the Citizens of Ashland conserve and then the rates are increased.  Some costs are related to facilities and infrastructure for energy and water.  Energy costs are going up, which the City purchases from the outside wholesale market.  Changing the rate structure is in the works.
Chief John Karns presented the Fire and Rescue Department Budget.  Chief Karns voiced his appreciation to the Committee for their commitment to this important process.  He then introduced his staff: Margueritte Hickman, Division Chief, Chris Chambers, Forest Resource Specialist, Greg Case, Division Chief and Scott Hollingsworth, Battalion Chief. 
Chief Karns presented a Budget History (see slide) and this year is proposing a budget of $5,460,000, which is an increase of $180,000 over last year.  He discussed the increases are attributed to MOU salary increases, PERS influence, increase in emergency overtime and expected utility charges.  He reviewed the Proposed Budget pie chart (see slide) consisting of 73% Salaries and Benefits and 27% Materials and Services with no allowances for any capital projects.
Chief Karns reviewed the Work Completed in FY 2011 item by item (see slide).  One highlight he focused on was establishing an Ashland Response Team (ART) comprised primarily of retired volunteers, many with strong emergency management experience.  There are 12 people in the ART team who are training in position specific tasks to help respond with City staff, keeping in mind that in the evening and over the weekend, city staff are not abundant.  ART is likely to be first responders.  He mentioned other items will be further discussed later in the presentation.  He then reviewed the work we see coming up next year (see slide).  He stressed the Department is falling short on fire and other emergency training.  Continued efforts to replace Fire Station #2.  He acknowledged the great work Chair Don Macken did running the Public Safety Bond Committee and expressed condolences to his family.  A goal is to increase the level of emergency preparedness and communications.  The mass notification system will not only be for emergencies, but a tool to communicate with the public.
Chief Karns addressed the Performance Drivers - Fire Operations Division (see slide) He noted that they strive for 5 minute emergency response 80% of the time and are currently at 71%.  This should improve due to recently hiring two firefighters and fewer times that a shift will be running at a minimum.  Dispatching Battalion Chiefs are working on a system that District 3 could help Ashland and we would help them as well and sharing resources.
Chief Karns discussed the Response Trend (see slide)  There was an increase in transports relative to total calls. With Ashlandís demographics, more and more calls are for transport rather than just service calls.  The differences in Station Request for Response between Fire Station #1 and Fire Station #2 was discussed (see slide).
Chief Karns moved on to the Performance Drivers - Emergency Medical Services Division (see slide) and noted the majority of calls are medical based.  The Department meets the time set by Jackson County Emergency Medical.  We internally set a standard of 5 minutes or less in the urban zone and meet that 83% of the time.  He reviewed the remaining items.
Chief Karns gave an overview of the Average EMS Response Times in Minutes (see slide) breaking it down in Urban, Suburban, Rural and Frontier zones.  It was discussed that response time is a function of staffing.  Bringing in District 5 adds to response time
Chief Karns moved on to Performance Drivers for the Fire and Life Safety Division (see slide). Did not meet the inspection goal of all commercial occupancies.  Next year will move into inspection phase of multi-family residences.  The weed abatement program was extraordinary this year.  Primarily due to the Oak Knoll fire.  Positive side is the community is more aware of its importance.  Will increase the number of inspections at larger restaurants.  Will not meet goal of 5 days for plan checks due to staffing.  Want to be sensitive to community development and their requirements.  Pursuing reduction in use of wood combustible roofs and more use of residential fire sprinklers. 
Chief Karns reviewed the Fire and Life Safety Plans Review (see slide) and did not achieve goals due to the lack of staff.
Chief Karns discussed the Forest Resource Division Performance Drivers (see slide) Some highlights: The Ashland Forest Resiliency project is moving along.  The four partners, U.S. Forest Service, Lomakatsi, The Nature Conservancy and the City of Ashland have their roles and are working together with good collaboration. There is an Outreach effort for Ashland Fire and Rescue (AFR) and there are a number of ways the community can get involved.  Firewise is well received.  Working to manage trails on City lands. 
Mr. Chambers spoke to the Forest Interface Budget (see slide) which is not in the General Fund, is the Fire Departmentís budget, but is in the Water Fund in order to provide protection of the Cityís watershed.  Primarily 89% coming through outside funds that include: the Forest Service, Ashland Forest Resiliency, which is Federal Stimulus Fund, Oregon Department of Forestry and Jackson County Title 3 Program.
There is a proposed increase for implementing the management plan for the Winburn parcel, which is in the middle of the watershed and landlocked by U.S. Forest Service Lands.  In 2009 that plan was passed by Council and now we have an opportunity in conjunction with work that is being done in surrounding Federal Lands.  $27,000 in this budget is City funds.  The Cityís participation in the Ashland Resiliency Project will provide $88,000 for our services which will be kept in the Water Fund and help offset the proposed increase.
Chief Karns spoke to the Performance to Budget (see slide).  We recognize our primary mission is to protect lives, property and the environment.  Training is priority and a challenge for the line personnel.  It is necessary to restore the Inspector position.  He stressed the importance of the mass notification system.  The Committee discussed the inadequate staffing issues.
Chief Karns moved to Significant Budget Changes FY 2012 (see slide).  Revenues include: a request for an ambulance fee increase from Jackson County EMS and adjust the fees of the Cost Recovery Program.  On the expenditure side:  No EMT, potential increase in bad debt expense related to ambulance fees, MOU salary increase, additional training costs and continue to implement mass notification system.   He pointed out the need for an increase in ambulance fees by addressing Medicare Reimbursement (see slide).  The Committee discussed that Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance covers approximately 60% and only 40% of their true costs are recovered.
Chief Karns continued to the Preparing for FY 2013 slide which include the 2 unfunded positions, eliminating callbacks and reducing some support programs if necessary. Relating to Budget Add Packages (see slide) there is a need for a Seasonal Weed Abatement Officer at $21,000, restore unfunded firefighter/paramedic position and establish a capital outlay equipment replacement fund.  The Committee discussed fire apparatus/equipment replacement needs, costs and equipment replacement fund that is paid into and the use of Grants.
Chief Terry Holderness introduced Gail Rosenberg who handles their budgeting and purchasing, Deputy Chief Corey Falls who is commander of the Operations Division, and Sergeant Hector Meletich who is the Division Manager for the Support Division.
Chief Holderness reviewed the Budget Over Time for the last 5 years (see slide). It is relatively flat with $151,000 less than last yearís amended budgetConsolidation of dispatch has saved money, technology debt no longer in there, but is offset by an increase in PERS and personnel costs.  He discussed the Proposed Budget breaking down with Salaries and Benefits at $3,965,543 (73%) and Materials and Services $1,464,218 (27%).  The biggest piece of the Materials and Services is the dispatch contract.
Chief Holderness addressed the Major Accomplishments in 2011 (see slide). The Department achieved most desired outcomes for all units, implemented directed patrol program, completed transition to regional dispatch center, reduced priority one response times, regionalized investigation of high tech crimes, increased department minimum staffing to three officers on duty at all times, hosted the Southern Oregon Sexual Assault Symposium, with no cost to the Department, and implemented electronic citation system, reducing time dealing with citations. 
The work we see for 2012 was discussed (see slide). The completion of the GPS requires receivers in cars at $70 dollar per car for a piece of equipment and technical component to tie into dispatch and implementation of electronic scheduling program.  Incidents of disorder are up and the Committee inquired about the Departmentís definition of incidents of disorder.  Chief Holderness responded that there are many types they deal with, including crime, drug activity, disorderly conduct, fighting, drinking in public as well as different groups of homeless.  The Department needs to establish and maintain staffing levels and the timing and process was discussed.
The Police Department Ė Patrol/Traffic matrix was reviewed and noted the Department exceeded the goal for response time.  The basic needs public health & welfare section was reviewed in detail.  Survey that was conducted showed 98% of victims contacted were happy with Police service.  It was noted that this figure does not include traffic violations. 
Chief Holderness reviewed the Investigations matrix (see slide). Staffing issues prevented the Department from meeting their goals.  Quality of citizen services related to property crimes and personís crimes were reviewed.  The Central Area Patrol matrix was reviewed (see slide).   Survey showed 96% of residents visiting the downtown area felt safe during the day and only 76% felt safe at night.  There will be a direct change in services by taking hours earlier in the day and putting them in the evening based on survey.
Records (see slide) sets forth the Department met all goals in records.  Relating to the Community Service Officer (CSO) (see slide), there is one person doing this and the Department is pleased with these results.
Chief Holderness addressed Performance to Budget (see slide) and he believed the Department would be able to achieve all desired outcomes with this budget.  The Significant changes from FY 2010 was reviewed (see slide). Part time Deputy Chief Commander left the department and that position was eliminated and replaced with a full time Administration Sergeant.   Additionally, with consolidation of the dispatch center they saw a savings of $235,000 in the cost of dispatch for the Police Department. 
Chief Holderness discussed the Add Package to fund one of the three unfunded Police Officer positions at a cost $105,000.  It takes one year to get officer up and running.  Ms. Thompson inquired if the Department hires people that are already certified?  Chief Holderness responded that they try whenever possible.  One difficulty they have encountered is it is costly to live here.   The second Add Package Request for a Central Area Patrol Officer was reviewed.  This would give increased coverage from 4 to 7 days a week during summer season and in the Winter would assign that officer as an SRO during the school year. 
Mr. Runkel inquired if the Department anticipated any Federal funding cuts?  Chief Holderness responded that the Department gets almost no Federal funds in policing.  The crime rate in Ashland is low and they count that in determining who gets grants.  Most of the Federal funding goes to the Marijuana trade.
Ms. Everson announced we stand adjourned.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:13 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
Peggy Carson
Temporary Administrative Secretary


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