Agendas and Minutes

Citizens' Budget Committee (View All)

DRAFT Citizens' Budget Committee Meeting #4 Minutes

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

May 8, 2019
Council Chambers
1175 E. Main Street
Budget Committee Chair Paula Hyatt called the meeting to order at 6:04 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
David Runkel              Rich Rosenthal
Jim Bachman              Stefani Seffinger
Paula Hyatt                 Dennis Slattery
Tonya Graham            John Stromberg
Shaun Moran              Mike Morris                            
Shane Hunter              Pamela Lucas
                        Stephen Jensen                       
Absent:  Julie Akins, Rich Rosenthal                       
Mayor John Stromberg, Budget Committee member brought the committee a request from Councilor Julie Akins, Budget Committee Member to possibly participate in the meeting by telephone. Dave Lohman, City Attorney added that under a City Ordinance a rule would need to be adopted to allow electronic participation. 
Moran/Hunter m/s to move that an adoption of a rule to allow electronic participation of committee members. DISCUSSION: Shaun Moran, Budget Committee member stated that Akins was a valuable member of the Committee and Shane Hunter, Budget Committee Vice Chair added that more participation allowed the better. Councilor Dennis Slattery, Budget Committee Member added that he thought that this sets a bad precedent, as there could be serious concerns down the line. Councilor Stephen Jensen, Budget Committee Member, added that he agrees with Slattery. Councilor Tonya Graham, Budget Committee Member asked if the technical capabilities existed. Hyatt added that there was a phone but that this was not ideal. Madding added that there are limitations to this technology as well. Lohman added other limitations such as when a notice to use such technology was given and what participation in voting is allowed should also be considered. Jim Bachman, Budget Committee Member added that he would not support the motion. Stromberg explained in what situations this type of rule had been suspended at the council level, adding that it could just be applied to tonight. Mike Morris, Budget Committee Member also added that he thought that this would be disruptive and could not support this. David Runkel, Budget Committee Member stated that the agreed with the point made by Hunter and Stromberg Roll Call Hunter, Hyatt, Moran, Runkel, Vote YES. Bachman, Graham, Jensen, Lucas, Morris, Seffinger, Slattery, Stromberg, NO. Motion Fails 8-4.
Rich Rohde-Ashland-Spoke in support of keeping the Marijuana Tax funding in the Housing Trust Fund. He also spoke to why he came to the City of Ashland.
Jesse Sharpe-Medford-Spoke to the rising rents that forced him out of the City, and the organization that he worked with. He added that what he has heard from others is to add funds to the Housing Trust Fund.  
Stephen Gagne-Ashland-He added as the Chair of the Wildfire Safety Commission that Public Safety is important. He discussed the variability of fires to the City and the financial impacts of this. Statement Attached.
Diane Werich-Ashland- She thanked the Committee for voting to keep the revenue stream to the Housing Trust Fund. She also spoke to the creation of the Southern Oregon Housing for All group and its goals.
Misha Hernandez-Ashland-Spoke to the safety bill and how it is important to have fully staffed stations. She spoke that she supported the safety bill and that no further cuts should be on the table due to risks within the Community.
Huelz Gutcheon-Ashland-Spoke to how taxes are paid and not paid. He also spoke to electric vehicles and the transition to solar power.
Delores Hines-Ashland-She thanked the Committee for returning Marijuana Tax funding back to the Housing Trust Fund. She spoke the affordability of living in Ashland.
Karen Levy-Founder of Ashland Tiny House group. She added her support on funding the Housing Trust Fund.
Mark Welch, Administrative Services Director and Adam Hanks, Assistant to the City Administrator presented to the Committee a proposal to include funds in the ECTS grant allocations. Slattery clarified what funds had been allocated by council. Hanks replied that funds for the VCB and OSF had been allocated but $80,000 of restricted funds had not been allocated and if it is not allocated by the Budget Committee it would come back to Council in June at the end of the budget process to determine how it would be used.
Stromberg/Jensen m/s to move to allocate $80,000 of restricted tourism funds to the ECTS Grants. DISCUSSION: Stromberg added that in his involvement he has seen allocations going to support tourism. Jensen stated that due to the work that the Sub Committee has already done it would be too hard to try to split funds. Seffinger clarified that the funds in discussion could not be used for City essential services. Welch and Hanks stated that they could not. Morris asked if these funds could replace funds that could then be used for essential services. Hyatt clarified that the funds being discussed are those that are restricted and that the other funds used are from general fund and were voted on in the previous week’s meeting. Seffinger also clarified that these funds could not be used for fixing sidewalks and other like projects. Hanks responded that they could not. Moran asked about moving the money to the side, so it could be discussed at another point. Hanks responded that the funds need to be decided as applicants have already applied for tourism funding and the restricted funds have not yet been completed. Roll Call Vote, Bachman, Graham, Hunter, Hyatt, Jensen, Morris, Seffinger, Slattery, Stromberg, Lucas, YES. Moran, NO. Runkel, ABSTAIN. Motion Carries 10-1.
Welch presented to the Committee the 7th quarter financial reports. Adding that further discussion could take place among.    
A discussion took place on the prior motion from Graham: A motion that the Budget Committee adopts a process that identifies two tiers of actions to balance the budget. The first tier of actions would be put in place at the beginning of the 19/20 fiscal year. The second tier would be put in place November 30 unless the community passes a resilience-driven revenue mechanism in the November elections. Budget Committee would identify a means of funding existing positions listed on Tier 2 until November 30 and recommend to Council to convene an Ad-Hoc committee to identify the method and content of a resilience-driven revenue mechanism that would be referred to the voters.
Graham spoke to the complexity noting it allowed public input. Hyatt clarified to Welch and Graham regarding the structure of the motion. Graham discussed what the processed would look like and what components for funding would be available. Slattery added that he thought the motion was overly complex. Bachman agree and stated that he would vote against it with the possibility of just postponing it. Runkel questioned November 30th date asking when additional funding would be available. Graham explained again what the process would look like. Jensen thanked Graham for the creativity to the motion but thought it was not the right time for it. Graham discussed that the purpose of the motion and its relation to budget cuts. Slattery furthered stated that the possibility of cutting three firefighters was not something that he was in favor of and that funding if needed would need to come from somewhere else. Stromberg stated that he supports what is being said, but that there are a lot of financial and service factors involved. He added that bringing the community in is also important in deciding factors such as what is an essential service. Morris added that he agreed with Stromberg, adding that he sees the Fire Department as always having to take the cuts. 
Graham withdrew her motion as stated.
Kelly Madding, City Administror spoke to a question regarding franchise fees as requested by the Committee for Staff explanation. Presentation Slide Attached.
Welch followed up on the AFR Fee, Presentation Slide Attached. Chris Chambers, Wildfire Division Chief also spoke to the fee, including discussing an offset in the General Fund from this funding. Runkel asked about the inflation of funds. Chambers explained the costs involved the costs associated with the program. Seffinger asked about the funding in relation to forest and wildlife health. Chambers talked about these effects to habits, climate change and the diversity of species.  Morris asked about the amount of acres in maintenance. Chambers explained what the goals of maintenance looks like. Seffinger also asked about trail maintenance. Chambers explained the safety issues related. Slattery added that he thought good work was being done.
Hyatt summarized the increase, the uses of the increased fees and a change in resolution that would be needed to be done by council.
Welch spoke to a question regarding merchant process fees as requested by the Committee for Staff explanation. Presentation Slide Attached. The committee discussed the total amount that was paid for these fees at $400,000. Moran further questioned what specific departments were responsible for charges. Lucas also asked how long the current contract was with the processor. Welch responded that although the contract is for 3-5 more years any processor would have similar fees. Moran clarified with Welch the costs associated with all transactions and that credit cards are the most efficient way from a business stand point of collecting fees.   
The committee looked at each item listed on the expenditure reductions, discussion and consensus as an agreeable method for the Committee is as follows: 
Parks Contribution  
Welch explained as presented, presentation slide attached. Slattery thanked the Parks Department for their support in working on this.  Support of the Parks contribution being held flat, all in favor to proceed as stated.
Elimination of Positions
Welch explained as presented, presentation slide attached. Lucas spoke to the importance of the School Resource Officer positions, as it may be partially funded by the School District.  Hunter asked about how many were currently filled.  Welch responded that 3 of them were filled and 3 of them not. Morris spoke the possibility that because of this elimination that some of the goals of City Council are being unfunded. Stromberg responded that although he sees future concerns with laying staff off within police, he believes that it would be harder to layoff already filled positons and take from other parts of the budget. Morris backed his point that he believes that Council will not be able to achieve its goals as stated. Slattery responded to this that the reality of dollars governs the goals. Hyatt added to the discussion a look at police beds as a way to help fund the School Resources Officer positions. She added that in her personal experiences that this position is important to the community. Graham spoke to the hard position the Committee is in and how she would like to see the School Resource Officer. She also spoke to concerns about the elimination of the Communications position in Administration. Runkel suggested that the committee not vote on this one, as he would be presenting other budget cuts options in the future. Seffinger questioned if unfilled positions had been looked at to see if it would be possible to not fill these. Welch responded that any vacant position will not be filled. Madding cautioned the committee that positions are still critical even if they are not filled. Hunter added his support to Runkel’s comment of moving on from this topic. Support of the elimination of positions, tabled.
Expanding the Staffing Model for the Fire Department
Welch explained as presented, presentation slide attached. Hunter asked for clarification on what this meant that the Fire Department would be asked to do. Welch responding that as Hunter noted that the Fire Department would be asked to reduce their overtime by $100,000. Runkel added that is not updated with the changes from savings presented in previous meetings. Welch added that after more analysis there would only be an offset of $100,000, he also further explained how funds in the general fund are used.  Jensen added that he supported the idea of allowing the Fire Department choose where cuts came from. Stromberg added that he would like to ask the City Administror to what cuts can be made by the committee. Moran added that he supported the ideas of other committee members in allowing cuts in the Fire Department.  Support of the elimination of $100,000 all in favor to proceed.
Increase Building Fees and Improve Fire Collections
Welch explained as presented, presentation slide attached. Runkel stated to this that he has various cuts in other departments and asked when would be a good time to present these. Hyatt asked that the total proposal be presented and then other committee input could be discussed. Moran asked what improved fire collection fees would actually look like. Welch responded that no new staff would be added as it was suggested before but that fire collections would actually be billed as they have not been in the past.   Support of the enhancements to building fees all in favor to proceed.
Utilize Health Benefits Reserve Fund for Healthcare Increase
Welch explained as presented, presentation slide attached. Slattery asked what half the cost of a school resource officer would be. Welch responded that the cost of this would be close to $65,000. Slattery furthered stated these funds could possibly then be earmarked for the School Resource Officer position. Stromberg also asked if this is one-time money or a revenue source. Welch responded that this is one-time money. Jensen clarified that the funding for the School Officer position would not be apart of the consensus and that it would be a topic that the Committee would discuss later. Support of the Utilizing the Health Benefit Reserve for Healthcare Increase all in favor to proceed.
Increase in AFR Fee
Welch explained as presented, presentation slide attached. Jensen clarified that the total fee would go up to $3.00. Support of an increase in the AFR Fee all in favor to proceed.
Increase Public Safety Fee
Welch explained as presented, presentation slide attached. Lucas responded to this that she would like to fund the Fire Department but not with this mechanism and possibly looking at increasing the Food and Beverage Tax. Graham also noted that she would like to look at other funding sources as well. Slattery also noted as a point of order that the food and beverage tax had to be voted on, to which Welch added that it could actually be voted on by Council.
Moran/Runkel m/s to move to reduce the appropriation of the Energy Conservation Division to $0 for the 2019-21 Budget. DISCUSSION: Moran spoke to this fund being funded under the Administration Budget, with expense being nearly two and half times the revenues.  He went on to say that this program does not justify its existence and that it is not an essential service. He added that the services provided are important but not sustainable and could be tasked to the private sector. Runkel also stated that as it has been successful it is less important as new construction is being built and that as the program has allowed for all other non-new construction to utilize services.  Graham spoke to the renewable energy assessment with saved energy being stated as way to reduce overall energy. Graham also discussed the importance in determining what has been done in this program as energy conservation is important. Hanks explained that the funding this division has no general fund connection and that there are some contractual BPA requirements from BPA for such services that are reimbursable. Moran spoke to how that  he thought it was under general fund and Welch clarified that this was not the case. Moran added the thought of using privatization in roles within conversation division. Slattery spoke to his support of the point made by Graham and the values of programs added through community support. Hanks also discussed with the committee the types of programs that were funded through the program. Morris asked to what solar programs are offered. Hanks added that conservation certifies most of the installations within the City. Hyatt asked about the pass through funds are coming from BPA, but that there are some City funds on top of this. Hanks responded that many of these funds come in the form of extra funds to incentives. Roll Call Vote Moran, Runkel YES. Hunter, Graham, Hyatt, Jensen, Morris, Bachman, Slattery, Stromberg, Lucas, Seffinger, NO. Motion Fails 10-2.
The committee spoke to suspending the rule of allowing staff involvement.
Morris/Stromberg m/s to move to the suspend the rules on involving staff during budget deliberations. DISCUSSION: None. Roll Call Vote, Hyatt, Jensen, Morris, Graham, Bachman, Stromberg, Runkel, Seffinger, Hunter, Slattery, Lucas, Moran YES. None, NO. Motion Carries 12-0.
Runkel/Moran m/s to move to reduce the City’s contribution to PERS by $500,000. DISCUSSION: Runkel distributed to the Committee communication on the motion adding that rising costs are a reason for issues with the budget. See attached Document. Moran stated that he did not have anything to add and would like more information on who would be exempt. Graham asked what the comparison would be for cities closer to the size of Ashland. Madding responded that those jurisdictions within the Jackson County do not have employees pick up the 6%. Welch also went on to explain what the state has done and what challenges have been created because of this. Runkel explained that a PERS policy previously adopted is trending as a financial problem for many organizations in Oregon. Slattery explained that issues that he has with this is that persons were hired with this understanding and what an impact this would have to staff. Seffinger also spoke to the possibility of staff not having contracts. Jensen spoke to agreeing with Slattery and that the motion is inequitable. Moran, Slattery and Hyatt had a discussion on the emotional nature of this motion and that it is really having to do with the job of balancing the budget. Hyatt added that she did agree with the construct and that she is sensitive to the impact of staff stating that she would support an idea to look at the benefits package of employees going forward. Stromberg spoke to the knowledge of staff and the consideration of the level of staff expertise. Graham stated that although she agrees that promises need to be kept, she appreciates Runkel’s look at a major budget driver. Seffinger added she agrees with looking at this suggestion in the futures as commitments have already been made. Morris stated his agreement with Hyatt’s point. Runkel responded that this motion was made with no disrespect to staff and that he agreed with looking at future benefits. Runkel withdrew the motion.
Hyatt/Slattery m/s to move that a recommendation be made to Council that Ad Hoc be convened to review comprehensive benefit package of employees.  DISCUSSION: Hyatt discussed the issues between supporting staff and the benefits structure. Slattery added his support to Hyatt’s comments and the educational components of such a process. Stromberg asked Lohman what the relationship was to an already established Employee Benefits Committee. Madding added that there would not be any issues with the committee if this motion was carried.  Roll Call Vote, Jensen, Morris, Stromberg, Bachman, Runkel, Hunter, Lucas, Moran, Graham, Slattery, Hyatt, Seffinger, YES. None, NO. Motion Carries 12-0.
Hyatt thanked Runkel for this motion as it added to an important topic and allowed the motion regarding an Ad-Hoc to be made. Hunter spoke to his experience with reductions in personnel costs and asked if any analysis had been on salary freezes or furloughs. Welch spoke to the analysis that has been done on these topics, stating the impacts would be at $35,000 for General Fund and around $46,000 for Central Service Fund. Madding also responded to what impact these topics would have adding that she would not recommend this.
Graham asked about the contingency in the general fund that was listed and if there was any that of this could be used. Welch responded that the amount budgeted is a policy driven amount. 
The committee looked at what topics would be discussed at the next meeting. These included a discussion around the funds from eliminated positions, school resource officer and funding with the health benefits fund or other staff recommendations. Lucas also asked about clarification on the Food and Beverage Tax increase. Runkel stated he had more cost cutting measures to present that he would send out to the committee. Seffinger added that she would like to see a discussion on the Live Entertainment Ticket Tax. Moran also asked for more information on the use of Economic Development Funds, a discussion on Utility increases, and the ambulance. Morris responded that Utility rates and CIP as it something that Council should discuss after the budget is adopted. The committee also discussed what authority the Budget Committee had to set rates. Madding also explained what this process looked like adding that ultimately this a policy decision for Council but that the Budget Committee could possibly look at CIP. Slattery added that this could also be a topic during the off season. Runkel also added that it was his understanding that as part of the total budget that Capital spending be approved by State law. Morris added that he would request that the City Attorney speak to as well. Lohman stated that he could clarify this point.
Hyatt responded that moving forward the Committee would look at the options as requested by the Committee above. She added that she sees this as two fold with one look being a discussion on current options and the other looking at off season topics. Slattery added this is also an item that can be looked at post budget.
Graham also added that she would like to see a conversation on the Band allocation.
Graham/Bachman m/s to move that the meeting be adjourned.  
Meeting adjourned at 8:57 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,                                                                                                                            
Natalie Thomason
Administrative Assistant

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