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Previous City Administrator finds serious flaws in recently passed City budget

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GEORGE CUSTER/Editor/The Herald  —  Below is a reprint of a letter submitted to the Oakridge City Council by former City Administrator Bryan Cutchen. The letter was read into the record during tonight’s meeting, July 7.

Bryan Cutchen
48300 Hills Street
Oakridge, OR

On June 28th, the city council closed out the current fiscal year by passing the FY 22-23 budget, heaping great praise upon each other and themselves for the smoothness and lack of conflict during the process as compared to last year. And yes, it did seem as if the council was of one mind during the budget process.

The budget committee and city council went about this process in a timeframe of three months and feeling flush with revenue, gleefully increased expenditures across the board. A stark contrast to last year’s dark deliberations on how to balance the budget, including discussion of a public safety fee. What changed? Outside some belt tightening by the city staff in 2020-2021, absolutely nothing. Except a windfall grant from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

A closer look at the details underlying the budget summary reveals some significant flaws the city council chose not to correct or could not comprehend.

General Fund (Resources):
On page 3, Line 2: Since no ARPA expenditures or transfers occurred this past year, this number should be at least $374,000.

In the General Fund (Police):
On page 8, Line 60: The line shows a capital outlay of CMAQ matching funds without a corresponding revenue line entry on Line 54 of the General Fund (Revenue) page 3.

General Fund (Municipal Court):
On page 12, Line 6: No COLA increase was budgeted for court clerk as required by her collective bargaining agreement.

And in the General Fund, (Requirements not Allocated), page 13:

Interfund Transfers Out: $100,000 of ARPA revenue should have been transferred to the Wastewater Fund to cover an approved ARPA project for I&I.

And on Line 18: The transfer out does not match the corresponding transaction in the Emergency Services Fund.

Line 29: No required entry was made. This should be the sum of all the General Fund departmental appropriated expenditures.

Line 36: No entry. The budget summary indicates it should be $399,309.

Line 37: Because of all the above, requirements don’t match expenditures.

Emergency Services Fund – page 16

Line 1 & Line 81: There was no budgeted transfer of ARPA funds to the Emergency Services Fund last year. There was no supplemental budget. The $100,000 is still in the General Fund.

Oakridge Industrial Park Fund – page 20
Line 1: Fails to recognize a $350,000 property sale.

Water Fund – page 21
Line 1: The beginning balance brought forward doubled. Looking at the current adopted budget and previous year’s budget, this looks questionable. Water revenues can increase no more than CPI-W.

Wastewater Fund – page 23
Line 2: As with the Water Fund, the opening balance looks questionable.

Line 9: There is no transfer of $100,000 ARPA revenue from the General fund to cover ARPA project on Line 69.

Due to these errors, the General Fund is at least $200,000 out of balance with expenditures exceeding revenues. With the likelihood of the Public Safety Fee being rescinded, this would put the shortfall at $440,000, curiously close to the stated shortfall in last year’s budget discussion.

Given the inexperience of the city staff, the fact there were some mistakes in the proposed budget is understandable. But to have a highly experienced city council not catch these errors, who combined, have likely been through the budget process over 20 times, is disappointing. Even the self-anointed budget wonk on council did not ferret out these anomalies and voted to adopt this budget.

Some might consider this missive sour grapes given the comparison to the conflict which occurred in last year’s budget cycle; however, it is not surprising the budget process this year ran like clockwork. Instead of taking on the difficult issues head on, this city council once again chose to kick the can down the road, through creative budgeting and questionable ARPA accounting. Unfortunately, the end of the road is in sight.

This citizen requests an immediate adoption of a supplemental budget which accurately reflects the city council’s apportionment of our tax and fee for service revenue.

Comments are closed.

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