Central Point plans 'bare-bones' budget

CENTRAL POINT — City officials are proposing a $25 million budget for next year, about 3 percent less than last year, by limiting capital improvements, having city management go without pay increases and trimming 5 percent from all city departments.

The budget would allow the city to continue funding a meals program for seniors, continue a weekly movies and music in the park program, and fund a tourism bureau.

City Administrator Phil Messina said the city began bracing for decreased revenues three years ago.

"In terms of layoffs, we've already been there, done that. We started three years ago when building tapered off," Messina said. "We had something near 300 homes per year during our boom, and I believe we've had fewer than two applications for new home-building here recently."

In response to the changing economy and decreased income, the city has gone from 6.5 positions in the building department three years ago to 1.5 today.

Those vacant positions will remain unfilled, said Mayor Hank Williams, and "we'll only do special projects if we can get a grant to pay for them."

The three largest elements in the proposed budget are $10 million for the general fund, which pays for salaries, $3.6 million for streets and $7.7 million for water.

Even with trimming, expenses for water and streets are expected to surpass revenues, officials said.

State gas tax revenues are down by $45,000, and city officials are considering a 3-cent-per-gallon local fuel tax, which would raise $450,000 to $650,000 for street repairs. The matter will likely go to a vote in September or could be discussed by the City Council again in coming months.

The city faces a near 9 percent — or $48,000 — increase in water costs. A rate increase is not planned for the coming year, but a rate study will take place soon. Storm-water rates, however, could be raised from $5 to $7.79.

Among water-system improvements needed by the city are a 2-million-gallon reservoir to increase storage. The $3 million project will be funded with the combination of a low-interest loan and a grant.

One revenue generator that is planned is a repeat of last year's Battle of the Bones barbecue event, a fundraiser for parks and recreation.

Without increased revenues for parks, an after-school program could lose some funding and other programs could be cut, as well, officials said.

To help maintain livability, several low-cost community events will continue, officials said, including Friday night movies and music in the park, annual rodeo events at the fairgrounds and Fourth of July festivities.

In addition, $12,000 was set aside to fund Food & Friends, which supplies meals for the city's most vulnerable seniors.

Williams applauded city managers for voluntarily going without a cost-of-living adjustment for the coming fiscal year, and he said city employees had been supportive of the need to cut costs and "batten down the hatches."

"We're just trying to get by on the income we're going to have," Williams said.

"They volunteered to give it up. They all realize the money is going to be in short supply. I certainly don't want to spend any money we don't have. Things should turn around eventually, but it's a bare-bones type of budget for now."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.

Share This Story