Budget crunch

By Observer Upload May 06, 2013 11:46 am

Proposed 2013-14 La Grande city budget features few changes from 2012-13 fiscal year 

By Kelly Ducote/The Observer

La Grande’s 2013-14 proposed budget is largely unchanged from this fiscal year’s budget. 

The proposal, released to the public Friday, features a $1.44 million Urban Renewal budget and a $34.91 million budget for the city — including the general, public works enterprise and other funds.

“What we’re looking at is a status-quo budget,” said City Manager Robert Strope. “We’re pretty much doing the same thing we did last year.”

One of the biggest changes is the focus of the Urban Renewal District. At the direction of the city council, the district’s focus will shift to a “proactive approach of assisting local businesses in the District,” according to a summary message to the budget committee.

Within the proposed budget for the Urban Renewal District is a $500,000 placeholder for partnership projects as well as $200,000 for a business assistance loan program.

“The other area that we are going to see a little bit of a change with the Urban Renewal program is, because of that loan program and the dollars that we’ve been spending over the last couple of years, we’re going to have fewer dollars available for other projects,” Strope said.

Outside Urban Renewal, the city’s budget will be pretty similar to this year’s budget. Capital expenditures are down almost 47 percent in the proposal compared to this year, but overall service levels will remain where they are currently, Strope said. 

Most changes in the budget are directed at maintaining these levels, especially within the police and fire departments. 

In the police department’s $3.18 million proposed budget are funds allotted for two potential officers — positions pending grants. The police department also hopes to purchase two patrol cars and a detective car to replace aging ones. 

“They’ve applied for grant funding for two positions. If we get those, we’ll have the funds to offset that increased expense,” Strope said. “If we don’t get it, then they can’t hire those two officers and pay them.”

Fire and EMS has a proposed $2.27 million budget with $11,000 set aside for facilities repair and $120,000 to convert the 1995 Freightliner chassis.

“What the chief wants to do is to take that chassis of the old aerial and convert it into a rescue truck,” Strope said. One concern is vehicles hitting emergency response vehicles — or responders themselves — at calls on the interstate. In addition to providing storage space, the large truck would create a physical barrier to help ensure safety on calls.

Building Maintenance has been allotted $35,858 more than last year, mostly for needed facilities repair.

“One of the things that’s very true is that for past several years we’ve had to defer a lot of maintenance,” Strope said. “There’s some stuff that we just have to do.”