In a lingering recession, Oregon is not in a hurry to fill several positions in the police and streets departments left vacant by retirements.
Administrator Mike Beazley said he and Mayor Mike Seferian are looking at ways to maintain city services with fewer people as the city deals with reduced revenue this year.
“It’s come to my attention there’s been a number of retirements lately,” Beazley said to council at a meeting earlier this month. “As we look at our revenues and we discuss this year’s budget, we’ve been on a go slow mode on filling vacancies. We do want to make sure we continue to meet essential service needs looking at both police and streets. I’ve been talking with the mayor and obviously looking at issues associated with those vacancies to make sure we can maintain the service level that our citizens expect within the revenue that we’re actually getting. We wouldn’t contemplate filling all the vacancies, but we’re going to look at making sure we continue to fill our shifts appropriately.”
Beazley said after the meeting that the city, like many other communities across the country, is dealing with less income tax revenue and a cut in state funding.
“Obviously, at a time when the community and region are coming out of a significant recession, Oregon’s revenues, like other local businesses, families and area governments, have been challenged. Our revenues fell about 10 percent from their historic numbers last year. So far, in 2011, they haven’t bounced back. We’re collecting revenue just 1 percent below 2010,” he said.
Before the recession, the city collected approximately $17.5 million in income taxes annually. That figure dropped to $17.3 in 2009, then fell to $15.9 last year, he said.
“We’re expecting to bounce back as businesses put our residents back to work. But for now, it’s still coming in flat. We realize the state is making changes and cutting back on the local government fund. A community like Oregon, with the cutbacks resulting from the governor’s budget, could take a $500,000 hit by the time things are phased in over a two year period. It’s something we’ll notice. The personal property tax cutback will impact our revenues as well in the coming years. Because of those factors, Oregon will continue to focus on ways in which we can responsibly downsize while we maintain high quality services. As we do that, it just means we’re going slow filling vacancies, and asking ourselves if there is another way of getting the work done without filling those vacancies because we would much rather not fill vacancies, as other communities have done, rather than going through the expense of bringing people in, then going through the expense of laying people off,” he said.
The administration has not yet decided which positions will be filled and which will remain vacant, he added.
“We will review that on a regular basis as we look at our service needs and our revenue and as we assess what other retirements we have in the pipeline,” he said.
There are currently 190 full-time city employees, he said. “There are a number of retirements every year that creates some opportunity for flexibility.”