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The coronavirus pandemic doesn't seem to be affecting recruitment, but it can be tough to find volunteers.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - While city council meeting are virtual lately, the physical St. Helens City Hall remains.As St. Helens looks for a volunteer to sit on the budget committee, the assistant city administrator says he doesn't believe the coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected recruitment for city boards and commissions.

Virtually all city governments depend, to some extent, on the willingness of residents to sign up and serve on advisory panels. Planning commissions, budget committees and other such volunteer boards play an important role, providing advice and input to members of the city council.

It's no different in St. Helens.

Matt Brown, the assistant city manager, said serving on the budget committee is a good way to learn about government.

"It is definitely a great opportunity for anybody that is interested to know how a city works," he said.

The budget committee includes five community members, alongside elected council members.

Brown said the city government hasn't had any more trouble than usual in lining up volunteers over the past year or so.

"I would not say that COVID has crimped any ability to find members to serve on boards," Brown said. "It can always be difficult to find folks willing to invest their personal time into local government, as there is no financial benefit to being a part of the budget committee or many other commissions that do not pay anything."

Brown continued, "It is a love for community service and wanting to be a part and voice in the process that ultimately drives a community member to want to volunteer. I would not say that this need (or) desire has changed, in my personal opinion, with COVID."

According to Brown, the budget committee typically has its first meeting in March, an introductory session to explain what the committee is and how financing works.

After that meeting, there are usually two or three more, although there is no set limit.

"We go through the budget book, and each department is allowed some time to talk about any specific projects or anything different from previous years," Brown said.

Usually in May, there is a budget committee meeting to officially approve property tax rates as well as the official proposed budgets.

Brown said the committee's responsibility is to ensure that the budget is balanced and is in accordance with the St. Helens City Council's goals.

In June, that approved budget goes to the council for official adoption. The new budget year begins July 1.

There is currently one open seat on the budget committee. Interested citizens must complete an application and must live within the city limits of St. Helens. City Council members eventually appoint budget committee members. There is no hard deadline to get the application in, but the city would like to receive applications before the introductory meeting in March.

Applications can be found on the city's website.


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