City's 2018-19 budget awaits council approval
Lake Oswego's proposed 2018-2019 budget has been approved by the City's Budget Committee and now awaits final review by the City Council.
The $211.4 million budget, which is broadly similar to financial plans adopted in recent years, cleared the committee with relatively minimal discussion.
If approved, it would represent a 14 percent decrease over the previous year's $245.9 million.
The difference is mostly due to debt issued last year for the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency, officials said. Most individual department budgets are nearly identical to those of the previous year, or slightly increased.
"We are presenting a 'hold-the-line' budget," said City Manager Scott Lazenby. "Not a lot of changes from what we saw a year ago."
As in the 2017-18 budget, the proposed new plan continues to make pavement maintenence and rehabilitation a priority, allocating $17.8 million for the street fund. It also sets aside $175,848 for bicycle and pedestrian pathway development.
Lazenby said the City made progress on a number of budget priorities in the past year, including more funding for bike and pedestrian pathways, replacing the Marylhurst sewer pump station and upgrading LOCOM's computer-assisted dispatch system.
"Most of the time, as residents, we don't really see the benefits of this directly," Lazenby said, "but it's a substantial upgrade."
Other improvements include the recently completed Public Works headquarters, upgrades to the library lobby and workroom, and an upcoming project to repave Jefferson Parkway.
Lazenby also noted that the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership project was completed under budget, freeing up some funds that the Public Works Department plans to use to speed up the installation of "smart" water meters for City water clients.
Lake Oswego will also be getting more state dollars than expected for roadway projects, Lazenby said, thanks to the $5.3 billion transportation bill approved by the Legislature in 2017.
"Because of that, we're able to move up the (timetable for the) Wembley Park Road project sooner than we otherwise would have," he said, a reference to a project that will repave the main road around the south and east sides of Springbrook Park.
At a Budget Committee meeting on April 26, City Engineer Erica Rooney provided a brief overview of other adjustments that have been made to the City's Capital Improvement Plan. One of those changes, she said, was the budget for the D Avenue Improvement Project, which expanded substantially during its development phase as engineers uncovered more work that would need to be done. That construction project, which is now underway, will rebuild D Avenue between State and 10th streets, including substantial stormwater system improvements and realigning the road to give it a slight meander.
Before proceeding to budget deliberations, the committee unanimously approved the proposed slate of municipal project grants for 2018-2019. They include $10,000 to Clackamas Women's Services for a project to build an emergency shelter, $5,000 to Hunger Fighters Oregon to establish a Lake Oswego food pantry and $3,000 to the BeeLine Foundation, which will partner with schools to offer family assistance.
A significant portion of the budget deliberations focused on the municipal golf course after Lazenby and City staff floated a couple of suggestions for the committee to consider. One involved setting aside a projected $1.5 million revenue surplus from stronger-than-expected new development for the eventual renovation of the course or the addition of a Parks & Recreation building at the site.
Lazenby also recommended moving the golf course out of its current Enterprise Fund and back into the General Fund. The course was self-sustaining at one time, but in recent years it has been operating at a deficit because of declining golf play rates. As a result, the City has had to transfer dollars from the General Fund each year to balance out the golf course's funding, Lazenby said, and eliminating the course's separate fund would simplify the process.
Committee member Steve Dodds expressed strong support for the idea, and other committee members expressed support as well, but said they wanted to make sure the city would still be able to track the course's expenses with the same level
of specificity that an enterprise fund allows. Dodds urged the group to go further and put more emphasis on maintaining the course, blaming poor maintenance in part for the course's declining usage.
"No matter what we do, we should start trying to maintain it better now," he said.
The committee unanimously approved the suggestion to move the surplus $1.5 million to a reserve fund, and the decision to move the golf course out of the enterprise fund passed 11-2. The overall city and LORA budgets were both unanimously approved.