City News

How you can weigh in on Salem’s city budget cuts

It’s budget season, and over the next several weeks city groups will discuss the future of Salem’s libraries, parks, police, fire and other services.

The city’s budget committee will be discussing City Manager Keith Stahley’s proposed budget, which includes cuts that would close the West Salem library and cancel many free summer city events in Salem parks.

A volunteer revenue task force is separately exploring new ways to bring money into the city to attempt to maintain them.

Recommendations from both groups will lay the foundation of the city’s spending and financial stability for years to come.

Here’s a guide of how to weigh in. 

Revenue task force town halls

The city’s revenue task force started meeting in January to explore new ways to bring money into the city. The goal is to avoid or reverse cuts to city services.

So far they’ve had three meetings to learn the city’s needs and to discuss the scope of the work and revenue targets.

There are two remaining town halls for the community to weigh in on what revenue options to pursue. The first was on April 10 in south Salem.

The next is virtual on Tuesday, April 16, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sign up here. The town hall includes a short presentation and then participants move between stations asking questions and providing comments, according to city spokeswoman Elizabeth Kennedy-Wong.

The third and final town hall will be in North Salem on April 23, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. It will be at Center 50+, 2615 Portland Road N.E.

Written comments can also be emailed to [email protected] anytime.

The revenue task force will meet four more times, on April 25, May 21, June 4 and June 27. The meetings are in-person at 6:30 p.m. the city council chambers, 555 Liberty St. S.E., and are streamed online by Capital Community Media.

According to a packet from the second meeting, the committee’s targets for the coming fiscal year would be first to bring in $9.7 million per year to keep current city staffing levels. and if possible additional $6.1 million to have service levels keep up with population growth. 

The list of potential options, found at the end of that packet, is 41 items long, including various taxes, changes to urban renewal areas and tolls. The city answered questions from the committee about those options in the next meeting.

The last revenue task force met in 2018, and their suggestions included a monthly charge on city utility bills to fund city operations that was implemented in 2020. They also suggested a payroll tax, which failed at the ballot box on Nov. 7.

Budget committee public testimony

The city’s budget committee, which includes the city council, mayor and nine appointed citizens, will meet several more times to consider the city manager’s proposed budget, which he will present during the April 17 meeting.

They will be evaluating whether to accept or reject his proposed cuts to the library, Center 50+ and other services, and are set to recommend the budget to the city council on May 8. There is the option for an additional meeting on May 15, if required. The committee reviews, deliberates and takes public input on Stahley’s presented budget, but its role doesn’t include a full audit of city spending. 

The city’s priority-based budgeting process he used to build the budget ranks its over 100 programs, Stahley told Salem Reporter last week, with police, fire and public safety programs generally at the top.

Stahley’s list of cuts include eight full-time jobs at the library totaling $1.2 million, $400,000 in service reductions to Center 50+, $700,000 less spent on park operations, $400,000 cuts to recreation programs, and cutting $410,000 that pays for the city’s warming shelters and Safe Parking program.

The budget committee’s remaining scheduled meetings are April 17, April 24, May 1 and May 8. They start at 6 p.m. in the council chambers. They’re also watchable online, on the Capital Community Media YouTube page.

Each meeting includes time for public testimony, which is limited to three minutes per person. Groups can select a spokesperson to speak for up to five minutes. Testimony can be given live during the meeting, in person or remotely. Those who want to speak can sign up between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. the day of the meeting.

Written testimony can be emailed to [email protected] before 3 p.m. the day of the meeting, along with a note saying the comment is for the record.

City council meetings

After the city council gets the recommended budget from the committee on May 8, they will host a public hearing on June 10 to consider any additional changes to the budget.

They will have their final vote on the annual budget on June 24. 

Eight of nine Salem city councilors, who also sit on the committee, told Salem Reporter they will not consider a budget that closes the main Salem Public Library entirely, but many said they’d consider cuts.

The city council has scheduled meetings on April 22, May 13, May 28 and June 10. Meetings start at 6 p.m. in-person at the city council chambers, 555 Liberty St. S.E., room 220, with the meeting also available to watch online in English and Spanish on Capital Community Media’s YouTube channel

Residents are invited to comment on any topic, whether it appears on the agenda or not. If a public comment does not relate to an agenda item, it may be saved for the end of the meeting. To comment remotely, sign up on the city website between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday.

For written comments, email [email protected] before 5 p.m. on Monday, or on paper to the city recorder’s office at the Civic Center, 555 Liberty St. S.E., Room 225. Include a statement indicating the comment is for the public record.

See contact information for each city councilor here. Include a statement indicating the comment is for public record, if desired.

The primary election will determine who will serve as mayor and in four city council positions during future budget cycles. The deadline to register to vote or change parties is April 30. Register or check registration status on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-575-1251

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.