Tualatin mulls status quo budget, eyes adding day to Pumpkin Regatta
The City of Tualatin is expecting a status quo budget with no plans to make cuts to personnel for the upcoming 2019-20 budget.
That was the general message given to the City Council and department heads during a special work session Monday night by Finance Director Don Hudson.
"I'm very proud to say at the City of Tualatin we do a pretty great job with the budget," said Hudson, who was recently named as assistant city manager while continuing to manage the city's finances as well. He said the city has the lowest tax rate in the area.
While no final budget numbers were discussed during the work session, where no votes or final decisions can be made, those numbers will come during an annual budget message set to be delivered May 6, according to City Manager Sherilyn Lombos. Lombos noted, however, that "we're in good shape" as far as city finances are concerned.
Among planned improvements this year will be installing "smart irrigation" to Lafky Park, a watering system that can read soil temperature and moisture and irrigate accordingly. Also, plans are to use both city money and seek a state grant to make repairs to the Tualatin Commons fountain.
At the same time, Tualatin must deal with "the elephant in the room," the Public Employees Retirement System (also known as PERS), with increased rates of 4.5 percent expected this year, said Hudson. However, the good news, he said, is the city won't have to dive into a reserve fund to pay for that increase. Also, those PERS employees who are retiring at the higher tiered rates are being replaced by those on the Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan where contribution rates will be lower.
Hudson said the bottom line is that a prudent budget is expected, noting that since at least 2008, the city hasn't had a year where expenses have exceeded revenue.
Meanwhile, Hudson also spoke about plans for an anticipated $210,000 in funding the city is expecting from the city's transient tax or what's often referred to as a hotel/motel tax. That money must benefit tourism-related projects.
Hudson said among plans for tax are adding an additional day to the annual West Coast Pumpkin Regatta held at the Lake at Tualatin Commons with an estimated $20,000 to add Friday activities to the annual Saturday gathering in the fall. That money would help expand the event, which attracts thousands each year to the Tualatin Commons area, with plans to move the popular pumpkin weigh-off to Friday along with adding more booth vendors as well.
"There's so much excitement around this event," said Ross Hoover, Tualatin Parks and Recreation director. "Let's expand it."
Other proposed tourism related-events include using $10,000 in tourism tax money to create an Arts and Cultural Festival in September, something that would replace the annual ArtSplash Art Show and Sale with more planned activities.
At the same time, 5% of the total lodging tax will benefit the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce, which is working on video a video of the Tualatin Ice Age Trail, said Hudson.
There's was also an $80,000 request for using hotel/motel tax money for an event and feasibility study. A focal point of the study would be to see what could be done with an old barn at Brown's Ferry Park. Hoover has said the parks department is interested in exploring whether the structure could be used as a wedding or special events space.
Also discussed Monday was new methodology regarding parks system development charges, also known as SDCs. Those charges are paid by developers to pay fund infrastructure related to development.
The city is set to implement the new parks SDCs in July.
During a PowerPoint presentation, Hoover ran the council through numerous scenarios that showed that even if the city charges 50% of the maximum allowable amount it can, Tualatin would still have the lowest total development costs of many of its neighbors including Tigard, Sherwood, Wilsonville, Beaverton and Hillsboro.
Tualatin Mayor Frank Bubenik said he was supportive of having staff fine-tune a 50 to 60% of maximum allowable increase to parks SDCs before returning to the council.
"I'm hearing most of us are OK with 50%. Don't go below that … but maybe a little higher," he said.
Finally, Bubenik asked that money for a concept plan study be added to the budget to create an All Wars Memorial at one of the city parks. He said his understanding is that local veteran's groups are likely to find money for construction of the project itself but those funds wouldn't cover a concept plan, something that would cost anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000.