Forest Grove City Council approves FY 2018-19 budget
Ahead of a statutory June 30 deadline, the Forest Grove City Council approved a $111.5 million budget at its last meeting of the fiscal year 2017-18 on Monday evening, June 25.
The budget will guide the city's finances through the next fiscal year, which starts July 1 and runs through June 30, 2019. It represents a modest increase over the $105.5 million budget approved by the City Council last year.
In his budget message, City Manager Jesse VanderZanden explained, "Forest Grove's population continues to grow and the resulting new housing and residents increase the pressure on City services. At the same time, costs for existing services continue to increase. This budget, like the budgets for the last several years, focuses on being sustainable into the future."
Among the changes reflected in the coming fiscal year's budget: funding is allocated for an additional firefighter and patrol officer, as well as extra street and bicycle path maintenance, but staffing levels at Forest Grove Light & Power, the city-operated electric utility, are decreasing by the equivalent of two full-time positions due to "restructuring," according to VanderZanden.
The budget was approved on a 6-0 vote. Councilor Malynda Wenzl was absent from Monday's meeting.
VanderZanden himself received a vote of approval from the City Council on Monday as well. The council unanimously approved a 2.5 percent salary bump for the city manager, along with a $250 "car allowance" for the vehicle he uses for work.
Mayor Pete Truax said the increase was needed to keep VanderZanden's salary "commensurate" with his position, as some of the city staff members he supervises have also gotten raises.
VanderZanden also received a 2.5 percent pay bump last year.
VanderZanden's new salary will be $149,784.
The City Council also approved a resolution Monday evening acknowledging and appropriating $230,888 in funding from the State of Oregon paid to reimburse the city for assisting with wildfires last year.
Under the principle of mutual aid, law enforcement and fire agencies will assist with incidents outside their areas of coverage as needed, but as Forest Grove Fire & Rescue Chief Michael Kinkade explained at a town meeting on fire services earlier this year, the staffing costs of aid that lasts beyond 24 hours is supposed to be reimbursed.
Forest Grove Fire & Rescue assisted in responding to conflagrations in both Oregon and California last year, including the Eagle Creek Fire that burned out of control for weeks in the Columbia River Gorge and the Thomas Fire that raged in Southern California in December.
Paul Downey, Forest Grove's administrative services director, said the State of California is expected to reimburse the city for its fire assistance next month.
Truax said he expects there will be more wildfires this year that will require Forest Grove firefighters' assistance, though he hopes there won't be.
"I know that the City of Forest Grove, Chief Kinkade and Forest Grove Fire & Rescue will be on hand to help out where and when … they need to," he said.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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