May 11, 2019 — The City of Florence Budget Committee has approved a recommendation to accept City Manager Erin Reynolds’ proposed budget of $58.4 million to run the city during the next fiscal biennium (two-year period). The Florence City Council will hold a public hearing on the approved budget on Monday, June 3, at 5:30 p.m. at Florence City Hall, 250 Highway 101.
The budget committee, which is made up of five citizen members and the five city councilors, met May 8, immediately after this month’s Florence Urban Renewal Agency (FURA) meeting.
The FURA agenda was brief and included a brief statement from Reynolds updating committee members on the projects that are scheduled to be completed during this budget cycle, as well as plans for the future.
According to Reynolds, the FURA budget is balanced, currently totals $5,915,700 and prior expenditures have started to produce the hoped-for benefits.
“The proposed biennial budget provides a funding plan to continue working on various fronts while completing the once-in-a-generation streetscape and gateway project for the main street corridor of Florence on Highways 101 and 126, referred to as ReVision Florence,” she said. “Four years ago, the ReVision Florence Project was a dream, two years ago it felt as if it was an insurmountable challenge and today it’s a reality. As I write, this the project is fully funded and, even better yet, it is under construction outside my window of the newly remodeled City Hall. When completed, these projects have the potential to transform the city’s main street corridor into a vibrant, active and inviting streetscape that is consistent with the city’s goals for economic development and livability and quality of life.”
There are no new projects currently in the pipeline for FURA funding, although new requests for assistance are expected. After a short discussion, FURA approved the proposed budget as presented.
The City Budget Committee meeting was the last in a series of meetings which focused on shaping and eventually recommending an overall city budget to the council for approval.
During these meetings, committee members have received comprehensive background information and in-depth presentations from Reynolds and senior members of the city’s leadership team to familiarize them with the many moving parts of the budgetary process.
This is only the second time the city has created a biennial budget.
In the official budget message, Reynolds highlighted the importance of the effort.
“The biennial budget is the single most important policy document of the city. It sets standards and establishes the action, operational and financial plans for the delivery of city services. It has been prepared to provide a comprehensive overview of all city funds and services, and to give residents a better understanding of the city’s operating and fiscal programs,” Reynolds read.
The $58.4 million budget is balanced, with $15.9 million in the General Fund budget, compared with the previous biennium budget of $55.4 million with $16 million for the General Fund.
“This biennium budget presents my recommendations as Budget Officer, and it incorporates nearly all aspects of the city’s Work Plan that was adopted by the city council earlier this year,” Reynolds continued.
The city manager and city department heads make final budget recommendations based on the ongoing needs of the differing departments. Ultimately, it is Reynolds’ responsibility to prioritize not only individual department needs, but what is best for the city as a whole.
The budget message not only models the priorities adopted by the council in the 2019-2020 City Workplan, it also points to some areas that will need future attention.
“A robust citizen engagement and outreach effort, while encouraged, also produces new ideas and energies, and expectations, for responsiveness and service delivery. This is becoming especially acute in the community development, the administration, and the parks departments,” Reynolds said.
The biennium’s priorities include housing efforts and initiatives, job and workforce development, park improvements, ReVision Florence community outreach, development of the Quince Street property and planned infrastructure and capital improvements.
“These five goals and six priority areas were the starting point for this budget,” Reynolds wrote. “We will continue to work towards meeting these goals with the financial resources available.”
The budget will also maintain existing service levels despite anticipated financial challenges and uncertainties related to public employee pension funding (PERS) and health care costs.
“Still, it enables the council’s goals to be met,” Reynolds added
Most of the city’s department heads were involved in the meeting, with PowerPoint presentations used to provide context and data that had been gathered by staff.
The breakdown of expected costs shows that the main areas of expenditure for the city are materials and services, personnel and capital outlays.
Reynolds specifically addressed the need for support of these departments in her message.
“Important components of the personnel budget include the continuation on of the compensation schedule that the city council adopted in 2015, which includes an annual merit system pay adjustment ranging from 1-3 percent, depending on performance, with a COLA (cost of living adjustment) adjustment of 1.3 percent,” Reynolds said.
The Budget Committee has been meeting recently to familiarize themselves with the many different elements that go into creating the budget. The information presented during this process was voluminous and extremely detailed in nature and there were surprisingly few questions asked of Reynolds or staff during this and previous meetings.
In addition to the 22 percent of the budget dedicated to personnel, capital outlay expenses make up an even larger segment of the requested funding at 25 percent of the total amount in this budget. The upgrade of Rhododendron Drive is one of the most expensive projects in this category and improvements in other parts of town are coming if the budget is approved.
“The capital outlay budget also contains funding for the completion of several projects that are already in progress, including the wastewater utility project on Highway 101 North, the Miller Park Concession Stand and Field Improvements Project and the close out of the Airport Lighting Improvement Project,” Reynolds wrote.
One of the most informational departmental presentations was given to committee members by Public Works Director Mike Miller, who has the responsibility of overseeing the buildings, equipment, parks, land, water and electrical systems that provide the city’s essential services to residents. This includes the city’s Water Treatment Facility, the Florence Municipal Airport, all streets and utility-related trenches and aqueducts.
As Miller recapped the accomplishments of his department over the previous biennium, it was clear that the infrastructure upgrades and improvements suggested were well thought out and aligned with the city’s overall goals and current workplan. These will also be expensive, as capital outlay expenditures requested for Public Works is $14.5 million.
Budget committee members have been attentive throughout this process to the numerous presentations and the significant amount of information shared by staff and occasionally asked for minor clarifications from Reynolds during the meetings. This give and take allowed for questions to be answered during all presentations and made the final steps in the process simple.
After a thorough explanation of all aspects of the city’s proposed budget, the committee was asked to approve the proposed budget and did so unanimously. The budget will be presented to the council next on June 3.
For more information, visit ci.florence.or.us.