St. Helens approves $43M city budget
The St. Helens City Council voted unanimously to approve the 2019-20 fiscal year budget following a public hearing Wednesday, June 5.
The $42.7 million city budget largely remains the same overall in comparison to the current year, with some staffing additions. The new budget is effective July 1.
The budget also includes several increases and decreases in certain funds due to one-time grants, staff retirements and insurance increases, according to a budget message prepared by Matt Brown, the city's finance director.
Notably, the budget calls for increased staffing levels for three departments, including police, recreation and a new position for administrative services.
SHPD will have funding for an additional patrol officer and a sergeant position, which will be filled internally. SHPD will also see an increase in funding to bring the department's current part-time records specialist up to full time.
The city's recreation department will boost its two part-time staff positions for a recreation lead and coordinator to full-time positions. The change in those positions is dependent on the council approving a $2 to 3 monthly service fee, however, or the city receiving requested grant dollars.
The City Council has had robust discussions about approving a monthly service fee to support the city's burgeoning recreation program, which began as a partnership with the St. Helens School District. The program offers activities for people of all ages.
During the 2018-19 budget planning process, the committee approved a $2 per household user monthly fee, but it was never implemented. The City Council renewed discussions about a fee earlier this year, but has not approved an official resolution to institute the fee, thought it is expected to later this year.
The council has also discussed pursuing a recreation district in the future to make funding for the program more sustainable.
The adopted budget allows the city to create a new development coordinator administrative position, partially funded by the city's Building, Planning and Public Works departments. A core function of the development coordinator would be to help residents navigate and obtain proper documents during the building permitting process.
The St. Helens Budget Committee recommended adoption of the proposed budget in mid-April before it went before the City Council this month.
During deliberations Wednesday night, a resident raised concerns that neither a complete budget document nor a complete draft document were made available for public inspection prior to budget approval.
Brown noted that the appropriation amounts, along with other documents, were provided in the Wednesday evening meeting packet. He also noted it was standard practice to not print a complete budget document, which is more than 100 pages, until the budget is approved by the council, to avoid expensive printing costs.
Councilor Ginny Carlson suggested changing policy moving forward to have a hard copy of the draft budget available at City Hall and the St. Helens Public Library so the public can review it prior to approval.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)