We are returning to cold and rainy weather as the month of November begins. We honor Veterans on the 11th, celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and open property tax bills.
As a result of the recent election, local option levy Measure 02-86 passed unofficially (until the results are certified later this month) and that means property tax bills will increase to a total of 81.81 cents per thousand of assessed value for five (5) years beginning July 1, 2014. The levy will pay for new positions in the City of Corvallis Police Department, City of Corvallis Fire Department, Community Development for long range planning, services at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, the Senior Center and the Osborn Aquatic Center. Additionally the levy will offset reductions in Hewlett-Packard’s property taxes resulting from an appeal of its assessed valuation.
Mayor Julie Manning said after this election, “This is a signal that these are services that people value. But it’s only a piece of the larger budget puzzle. There is a lot more work to be done”. Back in May of 2011 the City Council, in a letter to the Corvallis Gazette Times recognized and agreed with the value of allowing citizens to voluntarily support highly desired services with a vote. They also said, “We understand that the City Council will have to make the hard decisions that are necessary to bring City expenditures in line with revenues. We are serious about our responsibility to citizens, and we acknowledge that the local option levy is only a partial solution to a longer term problem.”
So we fast forward to November 2013 with the City Council asking voters to consider supporting highly desired services, the City Council continues to move forward with their goal of achieving a financially sustainable budget, a commitment and Council goal established two years ago. As a part of the on-going plan to achieve a sustainable budget that meets the sustainable budget goal five (5) years out, the process for budget development in 2014-15 includes a firm expenditure limit for City services and programs, integrating elements of priority based budgeting, managing the size and compensation of the City workforce, improving budget development transparency, examining inventory of real property assets for possible sale or repurposing and continuing their commitment to building a healthy reserve to protect against future financial downturns.
Even though the recently approved local option levy includes “guaranteed” funding by a vote of the people to hire additional staff as noted above, it is quite possible that the overall number of City employees will be reduced in order to achieve a balanced budget. This can be accomplished through retirement, attrition and layoffs. Additionally contracting out of selected services where there is established private sector expertise and efficiency, has significant potential to save money and improve service delivery while continuing the delivery of valued services.
A transformative shift in our local government will continue to be hard work, and we are by no means “Mission Accomplished”. It is my hope as City Manager that as we make the budget development process more transparent, citizens will help identify the enduring values and priorities for our City that will allow policy makers to ensure that imminent budget reductions preserve those services and activities that our taxpayers consider essential. The public must be active participants and elected officials must listen. There is more work to be done…..with all of us working together.
To our Veterans and active military personnel, thank you for your service to our Nation. Happy Thanksgiving Corvallis!