Salem City Hall. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
The Salem City Council on Monday approved the city’s annual budget amidst the backdrop of a waning pandemic and a windfall of federal cash.
The city is expected to receive $32 million through the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion federal economic stimulus bill signed by President Joe Biden in March that has to be spent in the next few years.
The influx of federal cash will buy Salem some time before expenses cut into its reserves. That means, city leaders have been able to dump a proposed tax hike while funding key priorities.
During a June 14 city council meeting, Budget Officer Josh Eggleston said the federal funding bought Salem an additional two and a half years before its spending cuts into the minimum balance required by city policy.
Eggleston explained the city needs to have 15% of its budgeted revenues on hand so it can fund city operations until property taxes come in November. Keeping the minimum balance helps with unexpected expenses like the ice storm and maintains Salem’s credit rating, he said.
Under projections shown to councilors earlier this month, the city will dip below 15% by 2025.
“It sounds like under current funding we need about a crisis every two and a half years then,” Mayor Chuck Bennet joked during a June 14 meeting.
The city had planned to ask voters for a payroll tax during the May 2020 election but scrapped it because of Covid. The Salem City Council passed an operations fee in 2019 that charged residents $8 a month on their utility bills to raise $7 million.
“While the city operations fee addressed the deficit in the short term, expenditures continue to outpace revenues for general fund services,” City Manager Steve Powers wrote in a document summarizing his proposed budget.
Here are some of the big numbers from the budget:
That’s the total amount of money the city plans to spend in the next year. It pays for things like sidewalk repairs and water treatment.
Property taxes account for $78 million of that. The city also gets money from cannabis sales tax, parking tickets and sales of alcoholic beverages.
Salem plans to spend 0.1% more this year, the equivalent of $1 million in increased spending. In 2020, the city budgeted $673.9 million in expenses.
The cost of a body-worn camera program for the Salem Police Department. That money will cover the first year of implementing the program, which includes equipment, data storage and four non-sworn employees to manage archiving of the large amount of footage it’s expected to generate.
How much the city will have to pay for nine Salem police officers that previously worked as school resource officers in the Salem Keizer School District. After the program was canceled, Salem lost $623,000 it was reimbursed through the school district.
Six of those officers went into patrol, two went to criminal sexual investigations and one became part of the professional standard unit, previously called the internal affairs office.
The amount of money the city is setting aside for a mobile response unit. Similar to CAHOOTS in Eugene, the program will send a medic and crisis worker to calls of people having a mental health crisis.
United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley hopes to have a program on the road by August.
The amount of money the city pays for the Homeless Rental Assistance Program, which provides a year of rental assistance and intensive case management for those who are chronically homeless. It’s half the amount that was allocated last year, because of “program limitations” including extensive case management needs and a low rental inventory. The Salem Housing Authority had difficulty getting landlords to sign onto the program during the statewide eviction moratorium.
The amount of money the city is spending to clean up Wallace Marine Park and Cascades Gateway Park after unsheltered people were allowed to camp there during the Covid pandemic.
The number of new positions in the city budget. Six of them are in the Salem Police Department. One is in parks operations and another is in IT.
The total number of employees budgeted in the city of Salem.
The amount the city will spend to simulcast Salem City Council meetings in Spanish and American Sign Language.
Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]
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