The Corvallis Budget Commission held a public hearing Tuesday night on a spending plan that is written in pencil. Or, possibly, disappearing ink.
The $169 million 2019-20 spending plan unveiled May 2 by City Manager Mark Shepard includes cuts for the library and Parks and Recreation services, but those will be restored if Measure 2-123, the renewal and expansion of the local option property tax levy, is approved May 21 by city voters.
Thus, the budget that was discussed Tuesday possibly had all of the permanence of a substitute teacher.
The drama, or not, will occur May 23, after the election, when commissioners deliberate on the spending plan. Finance Director Nancy Brewer said that she will have amendments ready for commissioners to use should the levy pass. If the levy fails, then the commission, which consists of the nine city councilors and nine community members, will essentially be stuck with the cuts.
Here is how those cuts shake out, based on Shepard’s budget message:
Parks and Recreation: Osborn Aquatic Center, the Chintimini Senior and Community Center and the Majestic Theatre would close and all recreation programs would cease. The department would drop from 34.5 full-time equivalent employees to 19.0. The overall spending cut would be 56%.
Library: Hours would be cut from 60 to 40 per week, and the library would be shuttered Sunday and Monday. Materials and programming would be cut, and the FTE count would drop from 44.5 to 32. The overall decrease would be 25%, which would be higher were it not for the fact that a significant portion of the library budget comes from Benton County.
Nine people spoke during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s hearing, with six urging that the city find $150,000 to fund a full-time position to help implement the city’s climate action plan. In addition to the live testimony, 12 emails backing the climate action position were forwarded for the commission’s consideration.
Commissioners Steve Lee and Ed Junkins noted that there is no job description for such a position, with Lee suggesting that makes the request “premature.” Junkins, also a member of the Corvallis School Board, noted that getting such a position funded by the district was a two-year process, with the job description coming in year one.
Ward 5 Councilor Charlyn Ellis, the chair of the city’s Climate Action Advisory Board, noted that there is a draft for the position under construction.
Which was a nonissue to Dave Eckert, the final person to testify.
“We’re not looking at this with the right lens,” Eckert said. “Let’s do it, let’s write it,” he added of the job description.
“We’re at the point with climate change where we are no longer talking about how we are going to stop it. We’re talking about how to survive. And yet we’re punting. Let’s get it done. Let’s not waste any more time.”
The other three speakers during the hearing all urged the commission to continue to support da Vinci Days. Their request is for $5,000, which might not be much in the context of a $169 million budget.
But with the cuts the library and Parks and Rec are facing if the levy fails … well, the festival might be fighting an uphill battle.
The meeting opened with a public hearing in which the commission unanimously voted to accept $658,000 in state revenue sharing funds. No municipal entity ever has said "no" to the funds.