Agendas and Minutes

Citizens' Budget Committee (View All)

Citizens Budget Committee Meeting

Monday, May 11, 2015

Budget Committee Meeting
May 11, 2015 6:00pm
Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street
The chair called the meeting to order at 6:00pm
David Runkel 
John Stromberg         
Greg Lemhouse
Rich Rosenthal (arrived at 7:15)          
Pam Marsh                            
Mike Morris
Carol Voisin    
Stefani Seffinger
Mary Cody
Traci Darrow
Garrett Furuichi
William Gates
Pamela Lucas
Shaun Moran             
Other Attendees:
Dave Kanner               Budget Officer/City Administrator
Lee Tuneberg              Finance Director
Kristy Blackman                     Administrative Assistant
The following members of the public spoke during public input in support of Voisinís add package being the proposal for a Solar Energy Park.
  • Jeff Sharp, 533 Fordyce St, Ashland OR 97520 Ė applauded the city and its staff for the budget preparation and their hard work. Referred to the House Bill 3470 Carbon Tax Bill that would impact fuel costs and lent his support proposed solar park and believes that this would compliment the City Sub Station projects S3 &S4A that were a part of the 10 year electrical planning study.
  • Jerry Paschen (on behalf of Syd Pashcen) representing Green Energy Windpower, 865 Oak St, Ashland OR 97520 - asked for his question from last week to be answered Ė is the City of Ashland in a long term contract with Bonneville Power?
  • Steve Maryanoff, 654 Oak St, Ashland OR 97520 - Asked how long the act of not incentivizing energy savings has been a part of City policy. He also noted that he is not satisfied with AFN.
  • Huelz Gutcheon , 2253 Hwy 99, Ashland OR 97520 Ė believes new staff are needed to facilitate the new solar park who are experienced with this project.
Chair recommended moving the Electric Departmentís presentation to the beginning of the group in order to field questions for public interest.
Mark Holden & Dan Hendrix presented the departmentís budget as presented in the proposed BN2015-2017 Budget document.
Questions from the Committee
Stromberg asked if any systems are still using aluminum conductors. Holden answered some are. The biggest issue in the past has been copper. He went on to explain that part of the 10 year study is to measure the carrying capacity and receive recommendation of whether they should upsize conductors.
Voisin asked if she had solar on her roof and it was producing a lot of energy, can she sell excess energy back to the city? Holden answered yes if she was on a net meter anything that is not used and comes back and the utility and the City will pay for the first 1000kw hours at 1 1/4 times the retail rate. Beyond that your rate drops to what we pay as a wholesale rate which is 3/10s of a cent.
Runkle asked for clarification on smart grid technology. Holden explained that meter reading technology was the forbearer and that in our technology everything is being connected so we can gather all that information and tune the system to gain optimum performance. He noted that in terms of the customer the individual can monitor in real time however, this ability was quite some time away. He went on to explain that progress stopped at AMR and now there is a new technology called AMI. Runkel asked what the timeline was. Holden answered this will be approached in this next biennium.
Morris asked if it is the Cityís goal to go to demand based structure. Holden answered yes they would when they have the meters to support that. Morris asked when peak demands occur. Holden answered from 7am Ė 8am and 6pm Ė 7pm.
Seffinger asked if there were any plans to extend underground cables. Holden answered new construction is commonly underground and they have no plans to replace overheads with these.
Morris referred to 3-138 and asked if those Materials and Services were charges. Holden answered they are transmissions. Morris referred to pg 4-59 and asked what the donations are. Tuneberg explained this relates to the heat program.
Stromberg asked how you donate to that program. Bryn Morrison answered the heat program is a onetime $100 donation.
Runkel asked if the solar park program had been presented to their department. Holden answered no. Runkel asked what their reaction is to the concept. Holden responded it is hard to say at this point and noted they are a distribution, not a supply company and as long as itís low cost and green, they are okay with it.
Gates asked if the City has renewable energy standards. Holden answered not that he is aware and that theirs is considered 87% which is 84% hydro 3% wind.
Voisin asked what the prediction of BPA in the rates is. Holden explained that this is a controversial subject, BPA are being hit hard by customers complaining about rate increases. Voisin asked if they are at competition with natural gas. Holden responded yes.  
Mike Holden & Dan Hendrix presented the departmentís budget as presented in the proposed BN2015-2017 Budget document.
Questions from the Committee
Runkel asked what Holden feels is the most pressing issue. Holden responded the network then voicemail.
Furuichi asked for clarification of revenues on pg 3-24 for BN2015-2017 under Charges for Services totaling $6.9 million and asked if revenues flow through the telecommunications fund on pg 4-63. Tuneberg noted that these are combined for telecommunications and IT. (Inaudible)
Kanner pointed out that the $400,000 is an interfund loan from the reserve fund for next phase of AFN business plan and this is part of the capital outlay.
Seffinger asked if the new voicemail would include voicemail for councilors. Hendrix answered the capability would be there.
IT TELECOMMUNICATIONS                                                                                             
Mike Holden & Dan Hendrix presented the departmentís budget as presented in the proposed BN2015-2017 Budget document.
Questions from the Committee
Moran referred to pg 4-64 under telecommunications fund charge for service of $4.3 million an increase of 11% and asked for justification. Holden responded as shown in the business plan, expected revenue will increase because of;
  • Better product after upgrade
  • Cost structure is better and more competitive
  • Better customer service
Moran asked how they plan to penetrate the remaining untapped market in Ashland. Holden answered by having a better cost structure and offering incentives. Stromberg added there is a turn over in customer base all the time and new customers come to the City for utilities therefore they can sign up for AFN.
Marsh noted there are two projects in the strategic plan and asked if this budget accommodates those. Holden responded no, this is just the internet project. Marsh asked how the fund transfer has gone from $250,000 to $400,000. Holden explained that is costs $250,000 for the technology and $150,000 in operational expenses and they will have overlapping costs as they switch providers. Marsh asked what the total cost of the project is. Holden replied $400,000 and noted this was talked about in the strategic plan.  
Gates asked what the advantage is for customers. Holden responded better service for the customers and less bottlenecks streaming quality.
Moran asked how long AFN has been running and if they have made a profit. Kanner responded had they not been paying $1.2 million a year in debt service they would have and explained the telecommunications fund pays $400,000 of the debt while the remainder is spread amongst the electric, general, water and wastewater funds and wonít be paid off till 2024. Kanner added he believes this should be kept going and kept competitive.
Stromberg noted the roll out of AFN was internally funded and ran up and internal debt of $15.5 million and as a result the City had to issue bonds which the city must pay off regardless.
Morris asked how they will guarantee the quality of service will stay the same. Holden answered that they employ an engineer to come once a year and tune the service.
Seffinger wondered if Ashland residents are aware that by signing up with AFN they are helping with the debt service. Holden noted that in the marketing campaigns staying local is mentioned.
Stromberg noted he has been periodically proposing this.
CITY RECORDER                                                                                                                
Barbara Christensen presented the departmentís budget as presented in the proposed BN2015-2017 Budget document.
Christensen thanked staff and the committee for their support.
Questions from the Committee
Furuichi asked if you can you legally charge 50Ę per merchant transaction. Christensen responded, by law as a municipal government they cannot and if they did they would have to charge everyone the same regardless of payment type. Furuichi then asked what the discount rate is for merchant services. Christensen responded about 3.5%
Dave Kanner presented the departmentís budget as presented in the proposed BN2015-2017 Budget document.
Kanner acknowledged members of the administration team who were present being, David Lohman/City Attorney, Tina Grey/HR Manager, Ann Seltzer/Management Analyst, Adam Hanks/Management Analyst, Vanessa Bidwell/Court Clerk and Judge Pam Turner.
Questions from the Committee
Moran asked what the increase in fringe benefits was. Kanner responded the biggest increase is in Health Benefits costs. The City budgeted for a 5% increase but will not take that if the plan continues to do well. Kanner explained the employee contribution aspect of the plan and noted that the 5% paid by employees of the premium is contractual.
Marsh asked for clarification of contractual services. Kanner noted budget to budget there is a slight decrease and explained this is the cost of third party administrative services and stop loss insurance. He stated he is unsure why they only budgeted $282,000 in the first BN because the actual cost was considerably higher. He noted that he is cautiously optimistic that the actual cost will be lower.
Furuichi referred to bottom of page 3-16 Ė premiums claims and judgments and asked if this will be about the same each year. Kanner answered this will be slightly higher.
Judge Pamela Turner presented the departmentís budget as presented in the proposed BN2015-2017 Budget document.
Turner explained that her remarks are limited to the code and gave the committee a hand out of the Oregon Code of Judicial conduct.
Questions from the Committee
Marsh asked why there were more cases completed than filed in 2014. Vanessa Bidwell answered this is a result of reconciling old cases.
Seffinger noted that fees are down in 2015 and asked if it is feasible to continue operating. Judge Turner believes that the court runs on a thin budget and that her staff work hard and are needed.
Cody noted that most of the cases are municipal code violations and asked what kind of cases the court sees the most of. Turner noted while people can come into the court; the majority of cases are handled at the counter.
John Karns, Terry Eubanks, Chris Chambers, Margueritte Hickman & Greg Case with the aid of a slideshow, presented their departmentís budget as presented in the proposed BN2015-2017 Budget document.
Questions from the Committee
Stromberg noted employees overlapping in responsibility coupled with demands for transport increasing means a need to look at fundamental policy decisions. He believes the budget hasnít been able to determine needs because of this.
Seffinger asked about slip and fall assessments and what this means for keeping seniors in the home. Karns responded by outlining the slip and fall program explaining that they offer clients home assessments after a slip and fall.
Morris asked why response times have declined. Karns answered staffing can contribute to this but statistics can be skewed with varying situations however, for the most part they are steady.
Rosenthal asked what would happen if the city chose to withdraw from transport. Karns noted that staffing targets could be lowered and that some revenue would be lost. Rosenthal asked in regard to the add packages that were not approved, which would be Karnís most important one. Karns answered staffing. 
Runkel asked what overtime costs were and if they were under control. Karns answered that they are non discretionary. Runkel asked if there was a savings cost in overtime if they added a new position. Karns answered this would be an additional position on a shift.
Moran asked about the 15% increase in charges for service. Karns noted it is ambulance revenue and explained that the County dictates the rates and they would be asking for a $100 increase. He said the last time they did this it netted $19 per call but most of the ambulance revenue is paid by private insurance.
Voisin asked how services balance between the cities. Karns answered that fire and rescue are fairly even.
Stromberg talked to overtime and dual mission of medical transport and firefighting. He stated it seems intuitive if the City were able to get out of that business and have a provider take over for that, we would be more effective and efficient in firefighting as well as benefit from reduced overtime. Karns agreed.
Kanner noted that ambulance transport is a net revenue generator and if it went away the City would need to fill that gap with another service.
Stromberg understands but feels that quality of staff time is more important. Believes there is too much overtime.
Marsh asked what the impact would be on the community.  Karns answered the City provides excellent transport service and the event of this being dissolved there would be longer wait times due to less ambulance inventory.
Voisin asked for gross revenue of the ambulances. Kanner responded $250,000 to $ 300,000 a year.
Darrow asked if they have broken out the diversions. Karns said while he canít quote the figures accurately it is cyclic, several daily and that in the 2013 calendar year to 2014 it almost almost tripled. Darrow stated she agrees with Stromberg in regard to looking at Ashland Community Hospitals and how staffing levels effect emergency services transport.
Seffinger asked if the ambulance services would be out of Medford or Ashland. Karns answered they would be staged in Ashland. Seffinger asked if the limited services could result in fatalities. Karns responded there could be some delays. Seffinger asked if the department would be involved in the visitor center. Karns answered it depends on the severity of the call. Seffinger asked if all firefighters are trained as paramedics. Karns responded they are.  
Gates referred to pg 3-72 and noted increases in request for training. Karns explained this is a goal to provide one week long training event for line personnel and multiple trainings for officers. Gates asked with regard to call load increase, what is the increase and what are the nature of these calls. Karns answered they generate around 3,600 calls a year and approx 70% are strictly EMS in nature.  Gates asked how additional responsibilities in the interface mitigation have affected the manning and the cost of the department. Chambers responded that it doesnít impact the line personnel.
Voisin asked Karns if it concerns him that his staff has dual responsibilities. Karns responded no, it is very common across the country and at entry level testing the City wonít even accept candidates unless they are certified medics.
Stromberg asked when is it that you decide the model being used isnít a viable model.  Karns suggested that this might be a policy decision to be discussed separately.
Runkel asked where the extra $1million came from. Chambers explained $2.16million came from a joint grant from the Forest Service and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service and an additional $1million came from the hazardous fuels budget in the Forest Service as a result of lobbying.
ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES                                                                                           
Lee Tuneberg, Administrative Services & Finance Director presented the departmentís budget as presented in the proposed BN2015-2017 Budget document.
Questions from the Committee
Tuneberg thanked staff and the committee for their support.
A question was submitted by Elizabeth Paschen during the meeting and it was explained that someone would contact her with an answer. Her question was ďIs there a commitment in council to achieve an increasing proportion of the electric power budget from natureís gift of wind?Ē
The meeting was adjourned at 9:17pm
Respectfully submitted
Kristy Blackman
Administrative Assistant

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