Central Point's shrinking revenue signals the end of its boom years

CENTRAL POINT — After a decade of unprecedented growth and an increase in city services to meet growing needs, the city sees a slowdown ahead — and an accompanying reduction in services.

City Finance Director Jill Turner said the coming fiscal year and likely those to follow will see decreased revenues, increased fees and a shift in city personnel.

"A great theme for this budget is we're right-sizing our budget," she said. "We've had a lot of growth over the past few years and we've seen an increase in our personnel needed to provide services for a growing city.

"This year we'll have fewer staffing in parks and recreation and building. "¦ I guess you could say we're adjusting to the economy of Central Point."

The proposed $27 million budget is a 6 percent decrease from last year.

That comes amid a reduction in new construction, linked primarily to a shortage of available land. New housing starts are predicted to drop from 273 in 2006-07 to 106 next year, and in response the city will eliminate the position of building department director, now held by Lois DeBenedetti.

"We've gone from 300 single-family dwelling units (per year) to approximately 100, so that's an obvious sign of change," Turner said.

The city also will not replace former Parks and Recreation Director Katherine Boxer, who recently resigned.

While building fee revenues are expected to decline, those who have land to build on will see steep increases. Last year, electrical and plumbing permits jumped 25 percent. In the coming year, mechanical permits will increase by 30 percent and building structural permits by 5 percent. Storm water fees, paid by developers, will jump 10 percent beginning July 1. A water rate increase of almost 4 percent will take place Nov. 1 this year.

Even with the increases, building-related revenues are expected to drop $349,000, Turner said.

The city's general fund, which provides for public safety, planning services, administrative services and parks and recreation, will be $9.6 million in the coming year, up from last year's $8.9 million.

With few large-scale projects on the horizon, a handful of revenue increases will fund some parks and tourism-related needs.

An anticipated $200,000 state grant would be used in construction of the first phase of Don Jones Park. The city also will receive $102,000 in new hotel-motel taxes thanks to construction of a third hotel.

A half-dozen capital improvements are planned for the coming year. They include: completion of the Scenic/Upton roads realignment ($1.8 million), partial funding towards a rail crossing near Crater High ($400,000); reconstruction of Hazel Street ($330,000) construction of Don Jones Park, phase 1 ($500,000); and a major waterline project along Peninger Road ($454,000).

Details of the city's 2007-2008 budget are available online at www.ci.central-point.or.us.

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

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