Lake Oswego City Council gives nod to 2021-23 biennial budget
Discussion was kept to a minimum Tuesday, June 1, as the Lake Oswego City Council swiftly adopted the proposed spending plan for 2021-23.
The biennial budget approved during the council meeting will bring in new full-time employees and put funds toward improving pathways and streets and completing other capital projects.
The Lake Oswego Budget Committee approved the $406.7 million budget May 13, which included slight changes from staff's original proposed budget.
"The three committee changes include funding four additional police officers, accelerating the timing of paving and increasing the amount available for municipal grants," the June 1 staff report read. "The budget also reflects additional resources for pathways, a new diversity, equity and inclusion manager and a behavioral health specialist within the Police department."
In addition to the overall budget, the council approved a budget of about $147.4 million for the six-year Capital Improvement Plan to fund major projects over the next six years. The next biennial budget reflects about $59.9 million in capital spending.
The highly sought-out Recreation and Aquatic Center capital project was approved as part of the parks and recreation bond in 2019, and the city expects to spend $5 million in 2021-22 and $10 million in 2022-23. The facility will include a competitive swimming pool, a warm water recreation pool, dry activity and exercise rooms, classrooms for the Parks and Recreation Department, offices for the Parks and Recreation team members, a cardio weight room and a gym.
The budget also reflects the city's plan to allocate $2 million in funding for top priority pathway projects, including the ADA Sidewalk Ramp Retrofit Program, the Douglas Way Pathway from Quarry Road to Hallmark Drive (as well as from Hallmark Drive to Boones Ferry Road), the Boca Ratan Pathway from Bonniebrae Drive to Atwater Road and the Hallinan Street Pathway from Hemlock Street to Cherry Lane. According to the city's budget report, the $2 million allocation is "made up of one-time savings from the 2019-2021 biennium," and it won't reduce funding for street improvements (which continue to be a priority). The street budget for materials and services is roughly $3.6 million over the next biennium, which includes sidewalk repairs, striping work, sign repair, invasive species removal and traffic signal maintenance and repair. The capital outlay for streets, which includes larger projects like the ADA sidewalk ramp program, bike and pedestrian pathway improvements and pavement preservation, is estimated to be about $10.5 million over the next biennium. Also included in this budgeted amount is a new pickup and service truck.
The city's plan includes adding more full-time employees like the DEI program manager, a behavioral health specialist for the police department and a planning manager to help with work surrounding House Bills 2001 and 2003. As the city expands park operations and other areas of work caused by population growth and increased city services, a new park ranger position was added as well as a maintenance technician, an adult resource officer and a position to ensure the city is complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The city also added a maintenance technician in the water department.
The Lake Oswego Police Department is looking to add four sworn officers to the force. One of the City Council's primary goals for 2021 was to complete a community engagement process around policing that began last year amid widespread social unrest. However, with the city's budgeting process running on a separate — and faster — timetable, the budget committee was compelled to address the proposal in some way and ultimately voted unanimously to allocate the funds requested ($1.6 million) for the new officers with a caveat that the police chief could not hire anyone before the community police dialogue was completed. This would increase the police budget by about $700,000 per year, with total expenditures for the department during the biennium adding up to about $31.8 million.
Council approves loan for North Anchor project
Also during the Tuesday evening meeting, the city approved a $3 million loan to the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency, which will eventually be repaid to the city after the sale of the North Anchor properties.
Sean Cross, the city's finance director, said funding from the sales of the North Anchor properties would be used for the new City Hall project. With City Hall nearing completion and the North Anchor properties having not yet sold, "the idea is for the city to loan LORA $3 million until those properties do sell whenever they sell," Cross said.
LORA then would invest the funds into the City Hall project.
"The city has the funds set aside within the Capital Reserve Fund," the staff report read. "When LORA repays the loan, the funds will be put back into the Capital Reserve Fund. This is being discussed at this time because the timing of the completion of the City Hall project does not line up with the timing of the sale of the North Anchor properties."
Councilor Jackie Manz questioned how interest on the loan would work, and Cross said there would be no interest charged since it's a short-term loan.
The City Council, then acting as the LORA Board, accepted the loan from the city.
Council approves increase in City Hall project budget
The City Council also voted 6-1 to approve a budget increase for the new City Hall project during the June 1 meeting.
As a result, the overall project budget increased by $500,000 from the original budget of $43 million.
"A budget increase is being requested to address ongoing, unforeseen costs and owner-initiated design and construction changes," read the staff report. "Any amount not used will remain in the City's Capital Reserve Fund."
Councilor Aaron Rapf voted against the budget increase, saying he'd like to see more information about where the additional funds were being allocated. He said he didn't feel comfortable approving an increase until he saw an itemized list of what every dollar amount would go toward.
Other council members echoed Rapf's concerns, though they ultimately decided to move forward with the budget increase.
"I will support this but I do wish we were approving … not just a pool of money, but a budget with actual items and costs in it that add up to a number that then we're approving," said Mayor Joe Buck, adding that he would be shocked if the additional $500,000 wasn't exhausted by the end of the project.
Councilor John Wendland asked if there was a way to meet in the middle on the dollar amount.
The city's redevelopment manager, Sidaro Sin, said they've identified valued-added components and other items needed to complete the project, so they would have to take a hard look to see if they could finish the project with the remaining budget. The budget increase would get them "to the finish line," said Sin, adding that the goal is to use less than $500,000.
David Lintz, senior project manager with Otak — a planning, design, engineering and project management firm — said it was "incredible" that they were still on schedule to have the project completed in September despite challenges thrown their way. Lintz said there was a large list of costs that weren't expected or included in the original scope of the project, like COVID-19-related changes and protocols.
Councilor Rachel Verdick said she was impressed with how the project had been handled so far, but it would have been helpful to know where the city was saving money and where additional funds may have been needed. She said it was a "lesson learned" for the future.
The council voted similarly to approve an increase of $504,000 in the city contingency, which would increase the overall project guaranteed maximum price to $36.9 million.
Upcoming construction activities for City Hall include building minor structures like a trash enclosure and bike storage, parking lot paving and landscaping.
For more information, visit the city's website.
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