The Dalles city council adopted the city’s 2019-20 fiscal year budget of $67.7 million June 10 as proposed by the city budget committee.
Representatives from two groups—the Main Street program and YouthThink—spoke to the council during the budget hearing in hopes of increasing program funding beyond that of the budget committee proposal, but no changes were made.
The budget committee on April 30 approved five changes to the original budget proposed by the city manager. These changes included adding $25,000 to the planning budget for contractual services for implementing the housing strategies report; an additional $10,000 in contractual services for watering downtown trees; an additional $10,000 for the Main Street program, for a total of $35,000; $50,000 was added for contracted services for the community wellness Blue Zones Project; and an additional $3,000 in contractual services was added for YouthThink, for a total of $15,000.
Those changes were approved by the council, and the budget was adopted in a 4 to 1 vote, with Darcy Long-Curtiss voting against adoption.
Debbie Jones, executive director for YouthThink, addressed the council during the public hearing, saying she was “speaking for the youth of our community.” She said state survey results showed more and younger youth in Wasco County trying drugs and alcohol than the state average. “We have a difficulty with youth use of drugs and alcohol,” she said. She added that the city identified health and safety as a primary goal of the city, and said the work of YouthThink fit with those goals by trying to educate kids and address potential health and public safety hazards before problems occurred. She said that despite the number of shops selling marijuana and smoking paraphernalia in town, “we are not the arm pit of the Gorge. We are not ‘the dirty.’”
A number of citizens also spoke in support of Main Street, asking the city to fund the program at $60,000 for the year, as it had in the past. Staff noted, however, that the program had never received $60,000 in city funding. Nevertheless, the proposed funding, totaling $35,000 for the year, was a decrease from the past two years during which the program got $50,000 each year.
Following the public hearing, councilors Rod Runyon and Timothy McGlothlin suggested that they supported both YouthThink, and the Main Street program, and would be open to considering additional funding during the year. “Beautification goes hand in hand with rebuilding the store fronts,” Runyon said of Main Street’s work getting grants for building improvements downtown. “If we can increase Main Street and YouthThink both, in the future, I will support that,” he said. “I’m in favor of the budget as we have it, it can all be refined.”
McGlothlin agreed, adding that “changing around funds” in the coming year was a possibility. “I would be willing to look at that,” he said.
Mayor Richard Mays also said he supported both programs, but added he would like to see a Main Street budget proposal showing why they needed $60,000. Luise Langheinrich, president of the Main Street board until recently, said she had provided a detailed budget to the city, and was unsure why he hadn’t seen it.
Councilor Russ Brown said, “It would be great to fund all these things. But I’m not in favor of drawing down that contingency fund. That’s for emergencies.”
Long-Curtiss said the council should consider the proposals presented by the two groups during the public hearing. “I’ve heard three councilors say they would like to increase these two things. I feel frustrated with this idea that we have to go with the recommended budget,” she said.