Will Ashland Survive?
By Addie Greene
The city must lead the way. We have seen the devastating consequences of a rudderless federal government, which has caused thousands of needless deaths.
Gov. Kate Brown has shown firm leadership in guiding the state through the first stages of the coronavirus pandemic and now is going forward to bring the state’s shattered economy back to health. The Ashland City Council must follow her lead.
In a recent letter Councilor Tonya Graham outlined what steps the city can take to help local businesses. She stated, “Allocating any of the money in the General Fund to individual local businesses (or even general economic support) means we would have to make even more cuts to the essential services in the General Fund. So using General Fund money isn’t an available option.”
What Graham proposed:
- Halt street repairs paid for by the Food and Beverage tax
- Freeze hiring of temporary and seasonal workers
- Halt cost of living allowances (1/3 of staff)
- Stop hiring unfilled positions
- Track COVID-19 costs to get federal money
- Renegotiate union contracts
- Postpone late fees for utilities until June 30 and payment of Transit Occupancy Tax until August 1
Seventy % of the TOT goes to the General Fund (30% restricted by the state). The FBT goes to wastewater debt, Parks (and Parks debt), and street repair. She suggested borrowing money from Enterprise Funds and releasing local restrictions on parking and capital projects.
Graham’s proposals are “nibbling around the edges” and in no way will help local businesses survive. The city must furlough staff and use the money to save local businesses.
The city must make these changes:
- Furlough the four recently hired police officers, whose salaries and benefits were not budgeted, at a savings of $330,468 (2017-2019 budget)
- Close the Ashland Fiber Network, giving subscribers a month to find a new provider, at a savings of $1,081,142
- Close the Oak Knoll Golf Course at a savings of $1,195,851
- Furlough the Conservation Specialist at a savings of $61,956 (2017-2019 budget)
- Eliminate three Parks and Recreation Department employees and three Public Works employees at undetermined savings
- Make these funds available to local businesses on a grant/loan basis
These are Draconian measures.
What good will a fully staffed city do if Ashland dies?