In 2014-15 budget

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Brandie McNamee, finance director for the city of Madras, notes that more people are visiting the new city hall.After a year in which staffing numbers dipped to the lowest level in nearly a decade, the city of Madras will add two positions in the coming fiscal year.

The Madras City Council unanimously approved a $17.3 million budget for 2014-15 at its June 10 meeting. The budget is up from last year's budget of $15.2 million, but Brandie McNamee, city finance director, explained that the increase is primarily federal and state funding for projects at the Madras Municipal Airport.

"Taxes have actually been stagnant for the past three years," she said. "The county's projecting an increase in property values, and that may increase taxes received, but we haven't seen the effect of it."

City staffing reached a high of 36 positions for three consecutive years beginning with the 2008-09 budget, but dropped to just over 31 full-time equivalent positions from 2011-2013, and down further in the current fiscal year (2013-14) to 28 positions.

"Personnel services are increasing, because we're adding two positions — one police officer and one customer accounting representative," she said. The city laid off two officers and a customer service staffer last year.

The customer service person is needed "to meet the needs of the city's inquiries."

"We found that everybody comes into the city hall," McNamee said, noting that the city has been using temporary help to meet the demand. "It's like a hub; people come in to ask questions."

City Administrator Gus Burril noted that personnel numbers have declined over the past few years to balance personnel costs with fiscal constraints. "The size of the city has not declined in that time period, and has areas of growth," he said.

Despite the added positions, McNamee pointed out, "The current year budget is very conservative. We are ensuring that operations are sustainable."

Two fees in particular will be rising as part of scheduled increases due to debt obligations. Sewer rates will be up about 8 percent, and water rates, about 4.5 percent.

Monthly sewer fees are increasing from $49.05 for up to 195 gallons per day, per dwelling unit, up to $53 beginning July 1. Water will increase from $1.25 per cubic foot to $1.30 per cubic foot for the water over the base rate of $25.55 for the first 500 cubic feet.

The city will begin charging a $5 fee for bills not paid by the 15th day of the month, effective Sept. 1. In addition, the city will charge $25 for hanging a delinquency notice on a customer's door.

"These fees are to encourage timely payment and cover time assessed for public works staff time," McNamee said.

In his economic outlook for the coming year, Burril noted the positive activity at the Madras Municipal Airport and Madras Industrial Site.

The Erickson Group is planning to open an aircraft museum in late summer, which is expected to increase tourism, and the city has signed a letter of intent with a solar company interested in a potential long-term lease of 70-100 acres to generate solar voltaic electricity.

Housing starts for the city dropped from 27 in 2007 to 0 in 2009, and four for the past two years, while nonresidential construction was estimated at a high of about $11 million for public facilities in 2013, and $4 million for industrial facilities.

For the coming year, several large projects are planned with funding from other agencies, including a $3.5 million runway rehabilitation project, fuel tank replacements and apron improvements at the airport for $792,000; the first phase of the U.S. Highway 97 and J Street realignment onto South Adams Drive, estimated at $6.7 million; an update of the city's Transportation System Plan ($130,000); and an analysis of the city's industrial land needs ($49,000).

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