Budget Commission passes city spending plan with one tweak

The Corvallis Budget Commission passed a $135 million spending plan for the city with just one minor amendment in a one-hour and 40-minute meeting Thursday at the downtown fire station.

Commissioners voted to take $35,000 from reserves to help with an effort to replace the boardwalk at the Marys River Natural Area.

The boardwalk washed out during 2012 flooding, and the Friends of Corvallis Parks and Recreation was working to raise more than $60,000 to allow the city to use a $195,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that requires matching funds.

The $35,000 approved by the Budget Commission will allow the project to go forward, while any further fundraising would be devoted to “paying back” the reserve account.

The budget plan for the 2014-15 fiscal year includes the addition of 7.5 full-time positions.

The $135 million pricetag is $13 million more than last year, with virtually all of the increase in capital spending. The biggest projects are a new training tower for the Fire Department and intersection reconstruction work at S.W. Washington Ave. and 15th Street.

General fund revenue and expenses remain relatively flat at approximately $42 million.

Most of the new hiring, 4.375 full-time positions, will be paid for by the local option levy that voters passed in November. Another 1.5 positions will be added to administer the expanded residential parking district plan the council passed April 7.

A total of 4.25 positions will be added elsewhere, and 2.6 positions will be eliminated. A total of 8.335 positions remain authorized but unfunded.

The Marys River boardwalk amendment was the only to one to receive approval of the commission, which consists of the nine city councilors and nine citizen volunteers.

Other amendments that were either withdrawn or defeated would have:

• Set aside a $50,000 fund for expenditures such as the boardwalk project.

• Spent $353,000 to have Pacific Power replace street lights with more energy-efficient bulbs that would save the city $100,000 per year.

• Set aside $60,000 to pay for changes that might be recommended by the Public Participation Task Force.

• Spent $125,000 for a new play structure at Franklin Square Park. The aging wooden one was torn down last month because it was considered unsafe.

Three residents spoke during public testimony. Two urged the commission to assist the Marys River boardwalk project. A third individual encouraged the commission to make sure the city does not spend more than it takes in.

Commissioners also applauded the new process the city used to review the budget this cycle. Added were four meetings at which department directors answered questions about their spending priorities.

“This is the best budget process I’ve dealt with in my five years,” said Mark O’Brien, a former Ward 1 councilor who served as vice chairman of the Budget Commission.

O’Brien thanked the city staff for their work and said that although “there were a few extra meetings, it was worth it.”

Contact reporter James Day at [email protected] or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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