A Tale of Two Cities, Part I – A Report from 2018 Still Relevant!

A Tale of Two Cities, Part I

Klamath Falls, just a tad larger than Ashland, is a city that believes in balancing its budget. “According to the City Financial Policies,” the Klamath Falls 2017-2018 budget states, “the city will live within its means and strike a balance between revenue and expenditures where possible, so that the public can realize the benefits of a strong and stable government.”

“In preparing this budget,” the document states, “staff focused on key priorities with the understanding of why cities exist. Cities were formed to provide services to residents such as law enforcement, water and wastewater utilities, parks, and streets. They also were established to create a sense of community.”

Ashland’s 345-page budget document makes no such claim.

“The City continues to operate under a soft hiring freeze,” the Klamath Falls document states, “essentially requiring a City Manager review, prior to refilling any position.” “In 2008, the City reached a peak of 169 full-time equivalents (FTE). Since 2008, the City decreased by 15 FTE.”

The Ashland budget organization chart, in contrast, claims 263.82 FTE employees. Ashland’s defense, as its 2017-2019 budget document states: “One major difference from cities similar in size is that as a globally recognized tourist city, Ashland is host to over 400,000 visitors per year, creating an unusual and additional burden on city resources.”

Do these 400,000 yearly tourist visits translate into a need for more than a hundred more city employees than Klamath Falls has?

For example, Klamath Falls has a city manager and four other administrative positions, including a city attorney and a paralegal, plus a judge and three temporary judges. Ashland has 15. These are a city administrator, an executive analyst, an assistant to the city administrator, a human resources director, a management analyst, a human resources analyst, two conservation specialists, a climate and energy analyst, the city attorney and a paralegal, a municipal judge, a municipal court lead clerk, and two court services clerks.

Klamath Falls’s city manager and the four other administrative positions earn combined salaries of $447,125 and benefits of $160,100. Ashland’s city administrator has a salary range of $135,204-$164,341, its city attorney a salary range of $111,233-$144,692, and its director of human resources a salary range of $100,891-$131,240.

Ashland’s director of finance and administrative services has a salary range of $100,891-$131,240.

Klamath Falls’s police department is the same size as Ashland’s—42 employees, but the city relies on Klamath County to provide fire protection, which means Ashland must provide 37 more (fire) employees than Klamath Falls, with a 2017-2019 budget of $17,446,005.

The most egregious difference, however, is with Parks and Recreation, which employs 37.25 people in Ashland and only 13.60 in Klamath Falls, including those who work for the Ella Redkey Pool. It does employ two summer temps and 10-12 summer temp lifeguards. Are Ashland’s parks so much larger and worthy than Klamath Falls’s? Not really. Ashland boasts of 760+ acres of parks and Klamath Falls 700.

Oak Knoll Golf Course lost $240,000 in 2017, and cumulative losses from 2005-2017 were $1.7 million.

Information technology services in Ashland are bloated, too, with six more positions than in Klamath Falls, not including the 5.5 Ashland Fiber Network jobs. And AFN never has been self-supporting.

Public works, usually a city’s largest department, actually seems larger in Klamath Falls, with a total of 90.5 positions as opposed to Ashland’s 68, but Ashland breaks out community development, with 15 jobs, and the electric department, with 17, altogether a total of 100. Klamath Falls, too, has seven airport employees (public works) for an airport with service to Portland and as part of a partnership with the Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing. And Klamath Falls has budgeted $589,000 for a snow plow and sander plus sweepers and another $24,000 for truck plows to deal with snow removal, an annual inevitability.

So what should we, as Ashland citizens, do to correct the projected $2.5-million shortfall in the 2017-2019 Ashland budget? In Part II of this series I will address that question.

Addie Greene, Ashland