City of Vernonia Begins Budget Process

On March 19, 2013 Vernonia City Administrator Bill Haack kicked off the City budget process when he presented the City Budget Message and the 2013-14 Budget to the Budget Committee.

According to Haack’s Budget Message the City of Vernonia’s total budget is $7,722,696; this compares to last year’s adopted budget of $4,393,939; an increase year to year of $3,328,757 or 76%.  The increase is directly related to capital improvement projects planned this coming year. The City is forecasting expending at least $3,000,000 on planned wastewater facility improvements – approximately 50 percent of the total project costs.

Haack noted that in the past year the community has seen a new school open and a former school campus transition to become a new park; seen flood damaged buildings elevated and razed and  plans for a new social services complex emerge.  The City has also seen plans become clear for the wastewater facility upgrade.

Haack explained that the budget used the goals of department heads, city committees and City Council as a basis for its design.

This years  budget requires no utility rate increase to achieve balance.   General Fund and Enterprise Funds revenue growth continues to lag due to the slow economic recovery, depressed property assessments and a decision at this time to not raise utility rates.  However, City Council will review professional assessments of both the water and sewer utility rate and may direct staff to modify rates in the future.

The City Council has directed staff to complete an update of the Master Capital Plan and Master Park Plan.  These will be used by City Council and the Budget Committee in years to come to establish a more formal approach to Capital Improvement Plan investments.

ORS 294.525 authorizes the establishment of reserve funds and the City budget may make annual transfers to reserves.  Three of the four reserve accounts are new in this budget cycle.  The fourth will be eliminated as funds previously tracked in this fund were dispersed to the three new reserve funds in order to comply with Local Budget Law.  The general fund account will be a sinking fund for assets owned by the city.  The parks reserve fund will be the same for park assets, and the water reserve fund will serve upgrades to distribution and production components of the waterworks.

The Budget Committee is made up of  volunteers and current City Council; during this process all committee members are seen as equal.  A Chair and Vice-Chair are elected to maintain procedure, quorum and etiquette.

Current members of the Budget Committee are: Brett Costley, George Guyett, George Tice,

Sally Harrison, Susan Wagner, Josette Mitchell, Randy Parrow, Kim Tierney, Donna Webb, and Bruce McNair.

The next Budget Committee Meeting will be Tuesday April 2 at 6:00 PM at the VCLC, 939 bridge Street.  The public is welcome to attend.  Public Comment will be taken at the beginning and end of each budget fund discussion.  Additional meetings have been scheduled for April 9, 16 and 23; May 6, 14, 21; and June 4 and 11.

Josette Mitchell was elected Committee Chair, Brett Costley was elected Vice Chair.

You may obtain a copy of the proposed budget (limited number of copies) by contacting Finance Officer Angie Handegard at (502) 429-5291.  The budget will be posted on City of Vernonia  website.   HYPERLINK “http://www.vernonia-or.gov/government/budget.asp”http://www.vernonia-or.gov/government/budget.asp.