Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Terri Harber


The Baker City Budget Board meets this week to complete the spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

At 6 o'clock tonight they begin the first work session at Baker City Hall, 1655 First St.

The total proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2013, is $15.864 million.

General fund expenses, which include the police and fire departments, are projected at $5.9 million.

Daily sessions are scheduled through Thursday, though the process could end earlier. Each subsequent session will start at 6 p.m. and take place at City Hall.

After the budget board approves a spending plan it's referred to the Baker City Councilors for last-minute adjustments. Final adoption of the budget is scheduled on June 25.

The councilors are limited to what they can change once the budget board approves the spending plan. They can only allow increases of $5,000 or 10 percent of fund expenditures maximum - whatever is the larger amount.

The seven councilors and seven other residents comprise the budget board.

Residents on the board this year are Aletha Bonebrake, Beverly Calder, Nelson Clarke, Randy Daugherty, Gail Duman, Josi Mack and Bruce Nichols. More than half of them have served as city councilors in the past.

Revenues are expected to go up somewhat during this upcoming budget cycle. Property taxes are expected to rise by 1 percent. Liquor taxes and state revenue sharing could go up by 4 percent. Franchise fee revenues are estimated to increase by 1.9 percent.

Ambulance revenue should be greater because of higher fees approved recently by the councilors.

The Baker 5J School District has restored its $15,000 payment toward the cost of a school resource officer.

And the amount of money collected at the end of this fiscal year likely will be higher than anticipated.

Lower franchise revenue, cigarette taxes and other incoming money coming in might affect the total amount, however.

Negotiations continue between the city and its three employee bargaining units: Baker City Employee Association (which includes public works employees), Baker City Professional Firefighters Union and Baker City Police Association.

Some of the councilors have said they don't want to see agreements that include pay raises or increases in other compensation.. Others have asked for financial restraint.

The budget as proposed includes no cost-of-living increases for staff.

Additional money would be taken from the contingency fund if these labor negotiations aren't completed by June 25 and ultimately result in a higher cost-of-living expense for the city. The contingency fund has been increased to $120,000 from $80,000 as a precaution.

The councilors wouldn't be taken by surprise if this was a necessary action because they would have to approve the labor contracts before making such an adjustment.

City officials propose to save some money by moving all employees to a higher-deductible health plan, for example, which would take effect starting Jan. 1, 2014.

That compensation change wouldn't occur until the midpoint of the upcoming fiscal year. And there will be an initial cost to the city for making it.

Savings to the city wouldn't be realized until the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2014. Otherwise, the city would save $46,500 if the employee bargaining units agree to the compensation change, according to City Manager Mike Kee.

State legislators also continue haggling over the Public Employees Retirement System, PERS. A bill was approved by House and Senate Democrats in late April and signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber earlier this month. Republicans aren't satisfied with the result and seek more significant reductions during the next two fiscal years, however.

Presentation of expenses to the budget board will be a little different than in recent years. The board members are being asked to point to items they don't see as crucial. They had been asked to prioritize spending items by importance during recent years, said Jeanie Dexter, finance director.

The budget board is scheduled to hear from members of the golf board and Baker City Playground Improvement Project, a local group involved with replacing this equipment for children at Geiser-Pollman Park.

Pleas from city officials for more public input didn't result in much feedback.

Only two other spending requests came in: one person asked for placement of distance markers along the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway, and another wants to see money allocated for construction of a grandstand at Geiser-Pollman.

People are welcome to attend the work sessions and make comments about the spending plan.

The city's website has links to pertinent information about the budgeting process as well as the current and proposed spending plans. The address is www.bakercity.