Ashland Budget Commentary: A Crisis in the Making! Hang on to Your Wallet!!
Here are seven budget concerns. Each will be addressed by a variety of authors who witnessed the budget process, such as it was, and the decisions made, such as they were.
Council’s failure to listen to and to respect the citizens on the Budget Committee and state budget law process. (Watch the videos on the city website.)
Staff and council are ignoring the elephant in the room – PERS charges that will increase through 2023 raising payroll 30%. (Go to www.orcities.org for details.)
Staff and council ignoring the other elephant in the room – city self insured health insurance that is out of control. (The draw down on the health care reserve resulted in an in house loan of $550k to save it.)
Public works staff forge forward with an unwarranted new water treatment plant ($25 million) and an oxidation ditch for waste treatment ($6 million) . Neither are needed for the immediate future (10+ years)
The council approved five new police officers without a way to pay for them. Staff propose a $4.75/month surcharge on water and electric meters. The council will pass this soon. It was left out of the budget.
The new Clean Energy Plan requires a staff person. This was also left out of the budget but the budget committee told staff to find a way to pay for a full time employee.
The Ashland Chamber of Commerce receives $1,000,000 over 2 years. Efforts to unpack this were ignored and blocked by council members. Attempts to ask for accountability and audits were ignored by council members.
Finally, the citizens on the budget committee asked that the committee meet at least quarterly to review the mandated quarterly finance reports. The council voted down the citizen’s request for a mayor appointed ad hoc committee to discuss process.
Watch for articles on these topics. Citizens need to know what is happening to their tax dollars and to their utility charges.