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» City budget gives Maple Lawn a year

HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

City budget gives Maple Lawn a year

Written May 10th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Albany’s Maple Lawn preschool on April 2, after its closure was proposed.

The Maple Lawn preschool can stay open at least another year, and police and fire layoffs have been averted for now, but long-term structural problems in Albany’s city budget remain.

That’s the gist of what I got from another two-hour meeting of the Albany city budget committee Thursday night.

On Wednesday night, the city council had approved a series of fee increases requested by the Albany Fire Department, yielding an expected revenue bump of $900,000 over two years.

Most of this added money will go to the fire department. But $132,000 was allocated toward the cost of running Maple Lawn for another year, allowing that much time for finding a non-profit or other entity to continue the preschool after that. And $125,000 was added to the police budget, which totals $32 million for 2019-21.

City Manager Peter Troedsson told the committee the proposed two-year budget as amended was balanced. But the committee, including the council and seven other citizens, spent a good deal of time chewing over the underlying problem: While tax revenue and other city income is rising, benefit costs are rising even faster, mostly because of increases in pension expense and health insurance.

In the police department alone, salaries for fiscal 2020 are budgeted at just under $7 million, and city-paid benefits are about $5.3 million. In the fire department budget for emergency services, there’s $7.1 million for salaries and $5.3 million for benefits.

Police and fire can avoid layoffs under the budget but expect to leave some vacant positions unfilled. That’s a problem especially in the police department, where a number of senior people expect to retire and hiring new officers takes up to year.

Mayor Sharon Konopa wants the city to consider a fee added to monthly utility bills to help support emergency services. She says this would force non-taxpaying entities — churches, health-care facilities and homeless shelters — to help pay for police and fire protection, which together cost more than the city gets in property taxes.

Councilman Mike Sykes suggested not levying all the urban renewal or CARA taxes that could be collected. This would funnel more money to the city and other local taxing districts, and Sykes said he’d like to see the numbers on what effect that would have. Councilor Rich Kellum backed him up, saying it’s a good question that deserves an answer.

It’s up to the committee to recommend a budget to the city council for final action. All the committee did on Thursday was talk. It didn’t vote on anything and plans to meet again at 6:30 Tuesday. Anyone interested in the nitty-gritty can watch live coverage on the city’s website. YouTube videos of past sessions, including the one Thursday, are also posted there. Thursday’s should be available sooner or later, but at 10:30 this morning it’s not there yet. (hh)



9 responses to “City budget gives Maple Lawn a year”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Pre-schools aren’t worth the expense. They simply do not produce the desired outcome.

    https://thefederalist.com/2018/08/13/why-preschool-doesnt-usually-do-much-good-for-small-children/

    And HALLELUJAH! Finally, a few councilors have the courage to challenge the sacred cow (CARA). This should be an easy ox to gore.

    • J. Jacobson says:

      I’m sorry, but citing The Federalist on the value of preschool education is akin to citing Pol Pot for how to deal with problem citizenry. Or maybe asking Kim Jong un the proper way to deal with ambitious relatives. Or, citing Karl Marx to prop-up capitalism. There are several others too gruesome to even consider.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “Councilman Mike Sykes suggested not levying all the urban renewal or CARA taxes that could be collected. This would funnel more money to the city and other local taxing districts, and Sykes said he’d like to see the numbers on what effect that would have. Councilor Rich Kellum backed him up, saying it’s a good question that deserves an answer”

      High-level view shows how much is being taken for Urban Renewal. You can easily see it on your own property tax statement and the specific amounts here:
      https://www.cityofalbany.net/propertytax

      And how the total stacks up in the 2019 budget (Albany Revitalization Agency):
      http://budget.cityofalbany.net/#!/year/2019/operating/1/department?vis=percentageChart

    • Jessica Nielsen says:

      Seriously? Preschools aren’t effective?
      I think countless studies would disagree with you.
      Also, are you at all familiar with the types of services Maple Lawn provides? It’s not just a glorified daycare. They cover all basic curriculum, they’re the only fully inclusive classroom in this area, they provide special needs services and related therapies…. need I go on?

  2. Rachel La Brasseur says:

    For those of us in the community that have had our children involved in the activities at Maple Lawn, know that this is much more than just a preschool! It’s ridiculous to me that our mayor is all about saving a dilapidated church to use as a community center, but doesn’t even bat an eye at closing Maple Lawn.

  3. Cheryl P says:

    “Mayor Sharon Konopa wants the city to consider a fee added to monthly utility bills to help support emergency services. She says this would force non-taxpaying entities — churches, health-care facilities and homeless shelters — to help pay for police and fire protection, which together cost more than the city gets in property taxes.”

    It’s a load of horse manure. It’s not the ‘non-paying entities’ that will be footing the bill, it’s everyone else. We already pay an ungodly amount for sewer (in relation to water intake)!

  4. Richard Vannice says:

    Does the Mayor include the City in being billed for utilities they do not provide – Electricity, Natural Gas? It might not add much additional cost to the city but the council is concerned about revenue. Think before you consider this idiotic proposal further.

  5. Bill Kapaun says:

    The City ALREADY has a “fee” added to our utility bills.
    And don’t forget the 5% Franchise Fee that’s hidden in your electric bill in addition to the amount shown.

 

 
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