Agendas and Minutes

Citizens' Budget Committee (View All)

Citizens' Budget Committee Meeting

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Budget Committee Meeting 

May 8, 2013 6:00pm
Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street
The Budget Committee was called to order at 6:00.
Mayor John Stromberg, Committee members Daehler, Everson, Heimann, Keil, Runkel, Stebbins, Marsh, Rosenthal, Slattery, Stromberg, and Voisin were present. Thompson arrived at 6:02 pm. & Morris arrived at 6:00 pm.
The committee questioned the reason behind placing Public Input on the agenda twice. Dave Kanner spoke to the reason regarding the addition of the 2nd Public Input. It was due to several complaints received from citizens wanting the opportunity to speak after the department presentations.
Ron Bolstad 481 Thornton Way, Ashland. Mr. Bolstad spoke to his support for the Firewise program and its coordinator position. He served on the Firewise commission during its charter year. The grant funding is in jeopardy of losing the position as of December 2013. He urges the budget committee and Council to keep the position. There are multiple reasons why this position shouldn’t be eliminated such as the wildfire danger; the program has proven its effectiveness in the two years that it has been in existence. He has met with Ali True on numerous occasions and witnessed the interest that people have in the program. He believes Ali is a great asset to the program & he thinks the effectiveness of the program is proven.
Dan Thorpe represents the Oregon Department of Forestry. He agrees with the previous speaker.  Fire prevention is very much a labor intensive activity. The Firewise staffing allows for a lot of one on one education and gives Firefghters a safer place to work in.
Eirlys McIntosh, 1036 Oak Knoll Dr. Ashland. She is a resident and member of the Oak Knoll Homeowners Association.  Since the Oak Knoll fire the Oak Knoll neighborhood has become one of 12 Firewise communities. Ali has frequently visited the Oak Knoll community and helped them substantially. They have taken advantage of the grant money that was awarded to them to remove flammable materials. Ali has educated the homeowner’s association tremendously.
Eric Olson, 385 Strawberry Lane, Ashland. He is a member of the Strawberry Lane Homeowners Association. The Firewise program has created 12 Firewise neighborhoods, reduced fuels, provided education, all 4th grade schools within the city have had Firewise presentations, home assessments have been provided, Firewise grants have been administered which has benefited many neighborhoods. Residents have the power to help reduce wildfires. Ashland is a safer place because of these efforts.
Darren Borgas, 503 Strawberry Lane, Ashland. He is a resident & Chair of the Strawberry Lane Firewise Committee and is an employee of the Nature Conservancy Center. He spoke to the potential threat that faces the City of Ashland in terms of wildfire. The Firewise program  is a key approach to help community members adapt to this environment that is prone to fire  and it helps cohesively with all that is being done in the watershed.
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder offered the opportunity to answer any questions relating to the City Recorder’s budget.
Lemhouse asked if there were any notable changes within the budget. Christensen answered that the only major difference is the increase in health benefits associated with going self insured. The City Recorders budget has increased in some areas and decreased in others.
Dave Kanner, City Administrator
Mr. Kanner spoke to the successes of the department listed on page 3-6 of the budget document.
He mentioned that just before the meeting they were made aware that Ashland was approved for an ecommerce overlay enterprise zone which gives those employers within that zone a break on their income taxes. The state limits the number of ecommerce zones to 10 within the state and earlier this year the ecommerce zone that was held by Hardy County was vacated.
The Assistant City Administrator and Assistant City Attorney positions have been held with $1.00 in case they find the need to fill those positions within the biennium.
The Conservation department was moved to the Administration department this biennium. The funding still comes from the Electric/Water funds.
Aggregate numbers show that personnel costs are down and materials and services are up due to the contracted Assistant City Attorney’s pay being changed between the two categories.
He stated that in the future it may be determined that  they may want to consider budgeting a small piece of the Human Resources department within the health insurance fund in future bienniums.
The Municipal Court department will be receiving a much needed security upgrade courtesy in large to a grant received from County Insurance Services (CIS).
He spoke to the success of Open City Hall so far, which was implemented in part due to the Council’s goals. He stated that this will likely not eliminate list serve.
Dave Lohman, City Attorney, spoke to the funding for the contracted Assistant City Attorney versus the fully funded Assistant City Attorney & noted that it is fairly close to the same cost. Lohman explained that it is a huge benefit to have someone on contract with prosecution experience and we are very fortunate to have Mr. McGeary’s expertise.
Kanner explained that the only Conservation employee that directly reports to him is Adam Hanks, Management Analyst. The 3.0 FTE listed in conservation includes the 3 conservation analysts. The Management Analyst position is split 60/40.
Marsh asked about the Municipal Court’s recurring audit comment with regard to their separation of duties. She asked if the item is being addressed in the budget. Kanner explained that the problem is that there are only a few positions within Municipal Court and they may never be able to fully address that comment without adding additional personnel.
Kanner spoke to the Library funding and stated that it a concern due to the County’s budget cuts. He stated that the Ashland Library levy doesn’t cover enough of the cost if Jackson County chooses to cut the Library funding. Our levy basically covers extra staff time and supplements the county funding not for the library to be fully operated.  He stated that the budget committee would be able to make further funding decisions in regards to that if it came down to that. It was pointed out that Commissioner Don Skundrick will be attending the June 3rd Study Session to discuss the possible impacts on Ashland due to County budget cuts.
Runkel spoke to the financial pressures regarding PERS. He stated that they City of Ashland’s rates are much higher than other cities around Ashland. He asked if there was anything within the City’s control to get our rate down. He said that he sent an email to Oregon PERS regarding how PERS calculates the rates. Kanner stated that the reason that rates vary from City to City is based on several factors such as employee longevity, anticipated payout etc. and he stated that there isn’t much that can be done to lower our rates unless those that are eligible to retire go ahead and retire. It was requested that staff do further research to address the question.
Adam Hanks, Management Analyst, spoke to the Conservation department. .His position is funded out of several funds, .20 Water, .20 Electric, .35 Central Service & .25 General fund. There are 3 energy analysts on staff with 3.0 FTE. On the Water side they are trying to meet the goals of the water master plan. .50 of this position has been moved to Materials and Services. Over 200 incentive rebates were processed, 300 million gallons saved indoors. Julie Smitherman participated in Earth day & delivered school presentations. He spoke to the Electric side of Conservation. He stated that the Bonneville Power Administration outlines the energy efficient measures. A lot of the programs have revenues or zero interest loans. Renewable energy is self funded through the City; includes solar water and electric. The commercial side saw 0% due in large part to the State tax credit changes.
Heimann noted that the State gray water statute was recently passed and wondered how the City of Ashland plans to deal with that? Hanks explained that different gray water uses will require different things.
Kanner stated that the money spent on the Plaza redesign was included in the current fiscal year & the money budgeted in year 1 & year 2 of this biennium would depend on Council.
Lee Tuneberg, Administrative Services and Finance Director
Mr. Tuneberg spoke to some of the successes of the department: Financial Reporting, CAFR/CUFR awards, Budget document award, the software conversion for Utility Billing which allows for better customer service & recognition for our Risk Management.
Stromberg pointed out that the AFN refinancing has saved us 1.9 million over 12 years which is a huge cost savings to the City.
The Accounting Division- One of the matrices shows how well we address audit comments. The utility billing comment has taken us several years to clear this comment but by converting to the new Utility Billing software we feel this will clear the comment.
The Utility Billing Division- There is more money budgeted in licenses to have the new software. In large the new software helps to clear the audit comment and take advantage of new technology as time goes on.
Discussion was had regarding the cost savings involved by going to a biennial budget. Tuneberg stated that he didn’t feel that there would be a financial savings but that it would free up time to do the work that the department heads would normally be doing and allow for updating financial policies etc. on the off year.
Mr. Tuneberg stated that the budgeted amount in the Capital Improvements fund is the transfer to the Parks CIP fund.      
He noted that it is expected that the Health Benefits Fund will change as we go through the biennium.
Runkel asked about our debt service capacity. Tuneberg noted that our debt is relatively low. He pointed out that the departments do a great job of seeking alternative borrowing. The new norm isn’t always to go with revenue bonds.
Marsh asked if staff has spent much time chasing Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) money? She asked if the Code Compliance Officer is funded will that position also help with TOT compliance and is that sufficient staff support available to assist them. Tuneberg noted that we definitely would like to have more staff to help with this but we will do all we can with the resources we have.
Keil moved for a 5 minute break at 7:38 pm.
The meeting was called back to order at 7:42 pm.
John Karns, Fire Chief; Greg Case, Emergency Medical Services Division Chief; Margueritte Hickman, Fire & Life Safety Division Chief; Chris Chambers, Forestry Division Chief.
Chief Karns stated that 96% of citizens surveyed in the recent citizen survey rated the Fire department as excellent or good. He spoke to each of the 4 divisions.
The Fire Operations Division provides emergency response to fires, physical rescues, and other hazardous conditions.  They also provide public education as well as emergency management and preparedness services to the City.
The Emergency Medical Services Division provides quality ambulance and customer service to the citizens of Ashland
The Fire and Life Safety Division provides services related to education and compliance with the Oregon Fire Code, fire related provisions of the Ashland Municipal Code and nationally recognized safe practices.
The Forestry Division provides community wildfire prevention and protection including ongoing work in the Ashland Watershed to protect our water supply and homes from the effects of severe wildfire.
Some of the major accomplishments for the current fiscal year included; the completion of Fire Station 2 & switching from 7/9 to 8/9 staffing.     
Stromberg stated that there was a meeting last Wednesday to identify potential funding sources for items such as the Firewise position. More information will be distributed to the committee later in the week.
Marsh asked what the add package for CERT is for.
Chief Karns explained that this is to replace the narrow banded radios that CERT is using, which are not in compliance.
Chief Karns spoke to the budgeted item to purchase 2 new fire trucks. He stated that the current trucks had 174 out of service dates. The cost is $1.14 million to replace the 2 trucks. The fire engines typically last about 20 years.
The Fire Inspector will be able to inspect the Fire hazards, follow up on compliance issues and handle the weed abatement. The goal is 300 inspections per year and the fee varies per inspection. The average is $100 which would generate about $18-20K in revenue in the first year.  Currently there are a limited number of fire inspections being performed.
Rosenthal asked about the Fire engines and what they receive in ambulance fees and reimbursement. Greg Case stated that they had been receiving about a 2% Medicare reimbursement on ambulance fees although under the current sequester that 2% was taken away. The base rate was increased by $100 in the current fiscal year. The FireMed & FireMed Plus programs have increased revenue. They receive over 1200 non emergent calls per year (43%) that they don’t collect on.  About 52% of the total calls are transported and reimbursed. There has been a decrease in Charges and Service of about 100K related to a reduction in Medicare payments and uncollectables.
Heimann asked if the weed abatement can be handled by Firewise.
Chief Karns stated that it can be split up however it is determined but there is plenty for the Firewise Coordinator to do without the weed abatement.
Mark Holden, Director of Electric, Telecommunications & IT
Holden spoke to some of the successes within the Electric department:
  • Fully staffed the department
  • Completed inspections of the system
  • Completed pole test & treat
  • There were no safety accidents or incidents
  • Implemented a tree trimming program
There was an increase in energy sales, there will be a 5-6 % rate increase requested to offset the BPA increase in wholesale power rates. BPA costs account for approximately 50% of the Electric costs. The biannual study happens every 2 years and will be settled in June of 2013. It s expected that the increase will be between 6-9%. Transmission costs will be up approximately 13%. The BPA oversupply management protocol (wind generators) will be a new cost. The Cost Recovery Adjustment Clause is expected to be nothing.
There are no add packages for the department but the department does have some capital improvement projects. The Ashland substation is in year 2 of 3. Upgrade to the Oak Knoll substation feeders which improves the restoration time and….Our SCADA system is about 10 years behind, this will bring us up to the standard. I5 feeder crossing’s are near failing, the reconductor substation feeder tie is currently inadequate and is the main feeder for downtown.  Underground cable replacement serves the downtown including ODF which is near failure. Relocation of the Pole storage yard which is currently located in a residential area and have been receiving complaints from the neighbors due to the smell. Calle Guanajuato.
Holden spoke to some of the challenges within the Electric department:
  • Managing BPA costs
  • Completing the inventory of the electric infrastructure
  • Performing a ten year system study
  • Developing and Maintaining regulatory compliance schedules
  • Enabling Smart Grid technologies.
Holden spoke to some of the successes within the Information Technology department:
  • Virtualization
  • Completed remodeling projects such as the Fire Station 2 construction project and the Police station remodel
  • Transitioned to in-vehicle computers and mobile technology in Fire department vehicles
  • New video recording system in the Police patrol car fleet
  • Springbrook Migration
  • Completed 2 of 3 stages of the headend upgrade
  • Plaza reroute
  • New AFN service area
  • CATV upgrades
Lemhouse asked in regards to the new ecommerce zone overlay how they will leverage the opportunity. Holden stated they will have fiber to the door ready for them. Currently there are 44 customers utilizing fiber to the door
The meeting was adjourned at 9:45 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
Tami De Mille-Campos
Administrative Assistant

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