The Cottage Grove City Council voted unanimously on Monday (June 27) to adopt the city’s 2022-23 budget in the amount of $46.1 million
The budget also imposes taxes at the rate of $7.2087 per $1,000 for the fiscal year.
The new fiscal year begins July 1, 2022, and the city is required to adopt a budget for the fiscal year no later than June 30.
Last year’s budget (2021-22) was adopted at $40.3 million.
Some changes to the approved budget were brought forward this month by both city staff and the public. Recommended changes from staff included changes to several funds.
In the General Fund, the police operations budget was increased by $2,600 to acquire access to an online pawn look-up tool. The recent rise in market fuel prices were also reflected in an increase to the fuel and lubricant expense line by $32,000.
For the same reason, fuel expenses increased by $800 in the Development Department.
Elsewhere in the budget, fuel expense increases were also seen in: the Building Inspection Fund by $1,500; the Street Fund Street Maintenance Department by $15,500; the Street Sweeping Department by $15,000; the Water Fund Water Distribution Department by $15,500; the Wastewater Fund Wastewater Collection Department by $7,600 and the Middlefield Golf Course Department by $7,800.
These increases are proposed to be offset with a reduction to the contingency line item in Internal Support Department.
Overall, the combined fuel and lubricants expenses were proposed to increase by $95,700. These increases were derived by using the amount of fuel used during the current fiscal year and estimating where the cost of fuel may rise to during the coming fiscal year. Because it is an estimate, staff expressed hope that the estimate is high and the expenditures will not be fully realized.
The Youth Peer Court Department also saw an increase in the amount of $4,800, which will allow for assessment services of youth who receive citations for offenses such as disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, harassment and vandalism.
In the Special Trust Fund, a new line item was created for skate park donations in the amount of $5,000 as well as a correlating expense line item for the skate park in the amount of $5,000.
This will allow for the collection of funds to pursue a plan to improve Cottage Grove’s skate park, a project which has seen recent public interest. The $5,000 is considered a place holder; if more funds are received, additional action by the city council can be taken to appropriate the funds at that time.
Additionally, the Budget Committee had reduced funding for the operation/support of a homeless facility in the amount of $200,000 in the General Fund’s Community Services Department as it determined that more consideration of the issue was needed. This amount was appropriated within the contingency line item.
At its meeting this Monday, the city council also considered funding requests from the public.
South Valley Farmers Market requested funding in the amount of $5,000, which would allow its program to provide benefits to low-income members of the community by increasing their staffing budget to allow for the enhancement of programs.
South Valley Farmers Market was established in 2016 and operates a public market space where local growers and producers can distribute local food and handmade goods to the community.
A request also came asking for support of the community health center, an upcoming project operated by Lane County Public Health. Jim Gilroy, representing Be Your Best, had requested funding in the amount of $100,000. This amount was included in the original proposed budget, but was reduced by the Budget Committee, and placed in the contingency line item.
The stated mission of the Community Health Centers of Lane County is to improve the health and wellness of the community through affordable, holistic healthcare. The Cottage Grove project aims to incorporate such health services into the local Lane Community College building on River Road.
Also, following a budget hearing, the city received an additional $1,868 funding request from the Singing Creek Educational Center to fund operation of one week of its two-week Pueblos Summer Camp.
The nonprofit develops historically-inspired educational programs and its summer camp is made available free of charge to Guatemalan and Latino families in Cottage Grove who could otherwise not afford to send their kids to camp.
During public comment on the budget on Monday, President of Singing Creek Educational Center Steve Williamson spoke about the center’s camp, which will include Spanish- and Mam-speaking teachers.
“We did it last year. It was really popular, but we could only do it for one week,” he said. The funding request would allow the camp to run for its proposed two weeks.
The council’s discussion on the budget largely centered on the requests for funding from the public.
Councilor Mike Fleck started the discussion by declaring a conflict of interest as executive director of Community Sharing regarding the promotions section of the budget, and said he would recuse himself on any discussion in that regard.
Fleck went on to say he was unsure about the South Valley Farmers Market request.
“Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about how this program is going to work to benefit folks in our community. It seems like an awful lot of money,” he said, adding that he wasn’t “necessarily opposed”.
However, he was supportive of the Singing Creek summer camp and the community health center, on the latter point speaking of the need for healthcare in the community.
Councilor Candace Solesbee said she had concerns with the community health center “not because I don’t believe that we need healthcare,” she said, but rather considering a shortage of workers and a tendency for doctors to move on to other communities.
“There is mass exodus from our hospitals right now,” she said, and pointed to massive wait times for appointments as a symptom of the problem. “I know that we let go a lot of our nurses, doctors and administrators because the vaccine mandates. We brought in a lot of traveling nurses at a very high cost and now unfortunately the hospitals, from what I’m hearing, cannot afford this in longer.”
Regarding Cottage Grove’s own community health center, Solesbee said she was “afraid of opening another clinic and not being able to staff it.”
Also, considering overall rising costs, she worried if the city could afford $100,000 toward such a project.
Councilor Kenneth Roberts said his understanding was that community health center would move forward whether the city supports it or not and he “would rather see that $100,000 “go toward other things.”
On the farmers market request, Roberts supported the market’s work but agreed with Councilor Fleck’s assessment $5,000 seemed high and said he would be in favor of a reduced amount.
Councilor Chalice Savage voiced support for having a community health center in Cottage Grove due to the area’s healthcare needs.
“I would love to see a community health center open so that people don’t have to travel. I would love to see more opportunities,” she said.
Councilor Jon Stinnett declared a potential conflict of interest due to his role as executive director of Downtown Cottage Grove and a line item supporting a Main Street program.
Stinnett said he thought allocating $100,000 for the community health center seemed “pretty straightforward and obvious” and went on to support the requests from the South Valley Farmers Market and Singing Creek Education Center.
Councilor Greg Ervin said he supported the Singing Creek camp funding as well as the South Valley Farmers Market, but “as far the community health center …. There’s more information I wish to have before I can support it.”
He said there were questions around the center that concerned him and, while he did not elaborate, he added that “there is a route in my mind to support it.” Thus, he said, he was comfortable keeping it as a contingency item and bringing it up at a later date.
Councilor Fleck said his view on the community health center was that “the support is more important that the amount,” and proposed a compromise of either lowering the amount or taking up the issue later.
Councilors ultimately voted to keep the community health center as a contingency while adding $3,000 for the farmers market and $1,870 for Singing Creek to the 2022-23 budget.
Funding for the community health center is slated to come up at the next council meeting, which is scheduled for July 11 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.