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Grants expand city budget

The City of The Dalles budget for fiscal year 2013-14, which begins Monday, is $53.1 million, a 1.4 percent increase from last year due largely to planned expenditures of grant and urban development funds.

“This is pretty much a hold-the-line budget,” said Nolan Young, city manager.

The four major projects in the pipeline for the upcoming year are:

• A $200,000 grant has been obtained for Mid-Columbia Housing and Community Development to rehabilitate residences within town.

• A little more than $2 million is expected in grants for the Washington Street Riverfront Connect project, a $7 million investment. Young said the undercrossing will allow people to walk from the downtown blocks under Interstate 84 to the Lewis and Clark festival area and marine dock on the Columbia River. Eventually, the city wants to build a plaza at the foot of Washington to provide even more space for community and tourism-related activities.

• Four hundred and seventy dollars has been set aside to complete archeology work and meet other city financial commitments for redevelopment of the Granada theater block. The cost to build a 362-space parking structure to accommodate Rapaza Development’s plans for a hotel and conference center is $4.8 million and incuded $2.7 million in private funding.

The general fund budget, from which most payroll and operating expenses are drawn, stands at $8.2 million, which is .03 percent higher than last year. Young said there is a 3.5 percent increase in that sector of the budget for personnel costs tied to an across-the-board raise of 2 percent for all employees. The contract for prosecution services was also raised by 10 percent, not to exceed $3,300 per month, as was the municipal court judge’s salary.

The city also purchased Young an iPad and increased his cell phone allowance to $100 per month.

Medical costs incurred by the city have risen by 8 percent and $36,000 is being expended this year to increase the work hours of the animal control officer. That position is going from 20 to 30 hours per week and the city is also paying $23,000-25,000 this year for services with the Home at Last Humane Society.

Those expenditures are made possible, said Young, because the city realized a 3.3 percent increase in property tax revenue, which makes up about 42 percent of the general fund, and a 2.3 percent increase in franchise fees that comprise 15.8 percent of that budget.

Capital outlay in the general fund is down $8,500 because the expenditure to upgrade computer services was made last year. The city will also spend less this year to replace police vehicles —only one $30,000 purchase planned this year — and other equipment.

“We are just generally maintaining the same level of services,” said Young.

The part-time position for Dan Durow, former planning director who is now the city’s economic development coordinator, is funded for the second of a three-year contract at $30,000 out of urban renewal dollars and tax abatement funds provided by Google.

Young said Durow is now working 10-12 hours a week as an administrative staffer. He said the city is saving $20,000-29,000 by restructuring duties between the planning and economic development departments.

The city did experience a 3.8 percent decrease in transient room taxes and a 1.8 percent decline in court fine payments.

In the upcoming year, utility customers will see water rates go up by 10 percent in September to cover the cost of some of the city’s $22 million in improvements for the water delivery system.

Sewer bills will rise by 3.44 percent in March to repay some of the $4 million in upgrades that will take place at the wastewater treatment plant on East First Street. The treatment plant renovation for a total cost of about $17 million will be largely funded by the issuance of revenue bonds and completed in three phases. The first two will address deficiencies and replace aging or outdated equipment. The third sets the stage to expand operations to meet growth needs for the next 20 years.

Capital improvements constitute 53 percent of the city’s budget and include state and federal funds for use in transportation related projects, such as street maintenance and repairs.

The city’s six top priorities for 2013-14 will be:

• Continue environmental work to increase the capacity of Crow Creek Dam and Dog River water line replacement in two to three years.

• Develop a plan to improve the intersection of East 10th Street, Thompson Street and Old Dufur Road.

• Pursue West Sixth Street improvements, including widening of the street from Hostetler to Snipes streets in order to accommodate a turn lane and future signalization at Hostetler.

• Obtain funding to update the transportation plan and the accompanying fees and system development charges.

• Complete the Webber Street Interchange Area Management Plan that will deal with traffic issues related to the interchange.

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