Water rate increases to users outside the city limits and continued vacancies in the Klamath Falls Police Department would be the major repercussions of proposed changes to the general fund as the city grapples with an expected budget shortfall of $760,000.
While no cuts will be final until the May 15 budget hearings, the Klamath Falls City Council was presented with a variety of options to deal with the shortfall, which is the result of rising expenses outpacing revenue.
The majority of council members favored an option with about $440,000 in front-loaded cuts in the 2013-14 fiscal year, while leaving the options open for the next two budget years in case the economy improves or revenues increase.
Some of the cuts in the first year will come from attrition. There are two vacancies in the police department that will not be filled, saving the city $208,000. Finance Director Phyllis Shidler is retiring in June and her position will not be filled, saving the city $41,000.
Chief of Police Jim Hunter said he does not yet know what affect the proposed budget cuts would have, but said that, currently, the police are able to respond to all their calls.
“The landscape is changing before our eyes. We don’t know where we will end up,” Hunter said. “To say you can do more with less is untrue once you reach a certain point. Have we reached that point? I don’t know.”
It’s possible the police department could see some relief with the proposed merging of the code enforcement department into the police department.
The presence of code enforcement could allow the police to focus on emergency calls and let the code enforcement officials deal with “cold” crimes, such as petty theft and property crimes, said Nathan Cherpeski, city manager.
To carry those duties, the code enforcement officers would need training. The extent of that training, as well as the extent of the calls they would respond to, has not been addressed, Hunter said.
The proposed merger of code enforcement with the police department, combined with the retirement of a code enforcement employee, would save the city $10,000.
The proposal also would increase water rates for users outside the city limits by a percentage that has not been determined. Currently, users outside the city limits pay 118 percent of the rate of city residents. Based on studies of other Oregon communities, that rate could increase to between 140 to 200 percent, Cherpeski said.
The increased water revenue would be allocated to the Klamath Falls Airport, which in turn would see its property tax funding from the general fund proportionately decrease. The airport’s portion of the general fund would then be funneled to streets and public safety budgets to keep city services intact, Cherpeski said.
Other cuts in the upcoming fiscal year would be a 2 percent reduction in the operations and materials section of the general fund, saving $45,000, and the cancellation of an outside janitorial service, saving $65,000.
In all, over three years, the preferred council option would save the city $545,000.
Recognizing the gap of about $200,000 that would still remain, Council members directed staff to prepare for the more drastic cuts proposed in separate options, which would affect current employees.
The most drastic option includes cutting a sworn position in the police department (making a total of three vacancies), eliminating the information services manager position, eliminating a director position in support services, removing a position from administration and moving one clerk position in municipal court to part-time.
Those personnel cuts would total $235,000.