The Corvallis City Council passed a $130 million spending plan for the 2017-18 fiscal year at its Monday meeting at the downtown fire station.
Councilors made some minor modifications to the budget recommended by the city’s Budget Commission at its May 16 meeting. The commission’s 18 members are equally divided between the nine councilors and nine citizen members. The Council is required to act on the commission’s recommendations.
One of the key discussion points during Budget Commission deliberations was how to spend $109,100 in unallocated funds. Councilors chose to accept most of those suggestions. Here is a look at the changes:
• The council upgraded the allocation to study an urban renewal district in South Corvallis from $20,000 to $42,500. Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services will match the city’s contribution. The amendment was proposed by Ward 3’s Hyatt Lytle, who represents the South Corvallis area.
Testifying in favor of the improvement plan were Jim Moorefield, executive director of Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services, George Brown, president of the Tunison Neighborhood Association, and Richard Hervey, a former three-term councilor from the ward.
• Councilors voted to spend $20,000 on alley lighting designed to make the downtown shopping district safer at night, an amendment offered by Roen Hogg of Ward 2, which includes downtown. A total of $5,900 from discretionary funds will be used while $14,100 will be shifted from human resources training initiatives approved by the Budget Commission.
• Councilors also backed an amendment of Ward 9’s Hal Brauner that adds $10,000 from discretionary funds to pay for the “Saving Green” proposal of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition. The program is designed to help local businesses be more energy-efficient.
Left untouched by councilors were Budget Commission allocations of $10,000 for Fire Department gear, $30,000 for The Arts Center, $30,000 for the men’s cold weather shelter and $5,000 for da Vinci Days.
Councilors also discussed how to find ways to pay for more street maintenance after hearing from John Hansen and David Brooks of the Skyline West Neighborhood Association. Ward 8 Councilor Mark Page, who represents the neighborhood, put forward an ambitious amendment that would have used all $109,100 plus more than $375,000 in reserve funds to tackle the street maintenance backlog, estimated at $3 million.
Although Page ultimately withdrew his motion because of lack of support, councilors praised him for emphasizing the problem and vowed to work on ways outside of the budget plan to kick-start the process. A likely first step will be raising the transportation maintenance fee that is part of the city services bill. That bill also includes water, wastewater, stormwater, transit service and urban forestry.
An earlier plan to raise the fee seven-fold was withdrawn amid strong community opposition. No new proposals have come forward as the city worked to provide refunds to those were overcharged under the current rate structure.
In other highlights, the council:
• Unanimously approved $368,000 in social services funding, going along with the recommendations of the United Way, which did the screening of the requests. Main discussion points were the $26,000 cut that Community Outreach Inc. would have to face and the fact that $30,000 was earmarked for a men’s cold weather shelter although no organization has been identified to run the operation this winter. Councilors voted to keep the shelter money in the allocations but stipulated that the request is contingent on the funding being matched by Benton County.
• Unanimously backed a change in the zoning map for the Brooklane property development adjacent to the Marys River Natural Area off of Southwest Brooklane Drive. The zone change will allow developer George Squires to tweak his lot to make it easier to develop. This parcel is not related to the nearby Brooklane Heights subdivision, whose grading plan recently was approved by the council.