ASHLAND, Ore. — A plan was brought forward to the City Council and the Citizens Budget Committee this week that would recommend increased fees and the possible elimination of at least half a dozen city employees. Ashland Administrative Service Director Mark Welch presented the 2019-2021 budget plan Wednesday.
“What the budget yielded after looking at after looking at conservation revenue projections and the cost of the city doing business, we are in a $2 million deficit per year,” Kelly Madding, Ashland City Administrator said.
She said the deficit they find themselves in is due to factors beyond their control.
“It’s due to the public employee’s retirement system. It’s due to an increase in health care cost,” she said.
The city’s current plan suggests eliminating two police officers and one position from each of the following departments: The Community Development Department, City Administration, Ashland Municipal Court, and Administrative Services.
Under the proposal, it would also reduce daily fire staffing from nine personnel to eight, which would save $100,000.
However, Ashland Fire Chief Mike D’orazi said the reduction would be a heavy hit to the department.
“It would have a very severe impact for us and Ashland is a small community but is very densely populated.”
Under the proposal, three firefighters would be laid off. The only way to avoid that is if the city increases the public safety support fee from $1.50 to $6.50.
Madding emphasizes that this is just a proposal and nothing is set and stone.
“I want people to understand that this is a starting place that the budget committee will look at this budget and they will actually made a recommendation to the city council,” Madding said.
On the other side, a member of the budget committee, Shaun Moran believes there are other ways to handle the deficit.
“Fee’s in Ashland has increased substantially. In fact, if you go back to 2009, Ashlander’s have seen a nearly 150% increase in their water bill. We’ve proceeded to raise people’s utility bills, but haven’t evaluated how we that could be offset with further cuts to the city budget,” he said.
Moran said they aren’t on a sustainable and affordable trajectory.
“Staff is what Mark has proposed but there are other things we should be looking at. Maybe outsourcing projects to reduce internal infrastructure, consolidating departments, salary reduction which could potentially reduce the budget. I think these are big topics that the budget committee needs to take up and hopefully we can come to the best resolutions for the citizens over the next 6 weeks,” said Moran.
If you want to weigh in on the issue, the next budget meeting will be held on April 24th at 6 P.M at the Council Chambers on 1175 East Main Street.