City budget looms with proposed cuts of $2.5 million
The Tigard Budget Committee grappled with tough choices on plans to cut programs and personal Monday night as numerous residents showed up testifying to make last-minute pleas to save favored programs and positions.
The city must cut $2.5 million from its 2018-19 fiscal budget, cuts that will come from all city departments but will make particularly deep dents in police, library and park services, according to City Manager Marty Wine. An equal number of cuts are planned for the following year.
The cuts are due in large part to the failure of a May 15 local option levy with Wine noting that almost half of the general fund budget goes to those three departments.
Many of those who testified Monday night asked the committee to consider fewer cuts to the Tigard Police Department programs.
That department will take a large hit with reductions that include not filling three vacant patrol officer positions, eliminating the city's traffic (motorcycle) unit by placing those officers in patrol cars, eliminating the Tigard Peer Court and moving three of four school resource officers to patrol duties.
During testimony, Kristan Rinell, a school resource officer, called pulling the SROs out of the schools "disgraceful."
She said the many of the school resource officers have relationships not only with students but with their parents as well.
"How are we going to feel safe in our school?" some students have been asking Rinell once the SROs leave those positions.
(The Tigard-Tualatin School District pitches in $57,000 annually to help fund the SRO program but that amount is only the equivalent to paying half an officer, said Police Chief Kathy McAlpine.)
At the same time, there was support to keep the Tigard Peer Court intact with one young person telling the committee he thinks he would have committed another crime if the program wasn't available. The twice-monthly program is for first-time youthful offenders who have committed misdemeanors, and are judged and sentenced by their peers in lieu of being sent through the county juvenile system.
Richard Carlson and Kirsten Curtis, both Tigard Peer Court judges, also pushed for keeping the program that the city budgets $40,000 to keep running. Carlson touted the fact that while the county has a 24 percent recidivism rate for juveniles involved in misdemeanors, Tigard's Peer Court has only a 4 percent recidivism rate.
Also testifying Monday was Tigard Police Detective Jeff Hering who questioned the city's priorities in choosing to make 10 years of cuts in two years with plans to cut five to six officer positions. He urged the committee not to make extensive cuts into police services, saying current response times for officers are at an all-time high and that police are housed in a sub-standard facility.
Meanwhile, members of the city's CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), which as of Friday is now registered as a non-profit organization, asked that the Budget Committee consider several scenarios for city help in funding the program.
"For our small budget of $30,000 we're a good deal," said Carin Grover, a CERT commander.