Ashland council studies budget as deficit looms – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News


Ashland City Council continued its analysis of the future of the city’s general fund on Monday, as the tangible implications of changes to essential, mandatory and non-essential services in the current environment take shape.

The board is tasked with resolving a forecast deficit of $ 3-5 million, while some departments related to the general fund simultaneously face exacerbated operational challenges.

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Commonly agreed upon essential municipal services that can be offered at different service levels include public safety (police, fire and rescue), water, flood control, and solid waste and sewage disposal, said Interim City Manager Gary Milliman. State mandates include land use planning services and regulatory compliance with the services the city chooses to establish.

“There are services in virtually every department that, once you establish those departments, are optional under that department,” Milliman said. “This is really the council’s call on what you think of a mandatory service to meet the needs of your community. “

Services codified in Ashland’s Charter by Citizen Voting include the City Court, Parks Department, City Music, and an Open Space program.

Non-essential and non-mandated services include citizen advisory boards, street planning and maintenance, street landscape and tree maintenance, economic development, housing, tourism promotion, conservation of water and watershed management, community celebrations and events, street lighting, recreational services such as swimming pool, golf course and center, airport, Ashland Fiber Network, animal control and related services the implementation of policies decreed by the municipal council.

Some infrastructure and services are not required but must meet state and federal standards once created, Milliman said. The necessary support functions accompany essential services, such as human resources, legal and financial management.

For example, no state law requires the city to have a police department, but the laws set out “mandatory provisions” such as training, supervision, safety equipment, and other items within the city. of the department once it is established by city code, he said.

“You can’t have policemen without paying them. You can’t provide the equipment you need to put out a fire without the income to pay for it, ”he explained in council documents.

Ashland Municipal Code 2.28.280 established a police department, headed by a police chief, with a staff and a budget. The following codes describe the duties of the chief of police, the administration of the department and the functions.

Milliman urged advisers to consult department-specific strategic planning documents and operational objectives to guide the identification of essential services versus optional services, and to determine where contracting may be appropriate for the delivery of essential services within. some departments.

“What I’ve learned as a city manager in cities big and small is that you don’t always need to provide essential service to city employees, the city isn’t the only supplier of essential services, and providing an essential service is optional, ”Milliman said in the council documents.

In July, former CFO Melanie Purcell proposed strategies to the board to consider in response to fiscal vulnerability, including regionalizing services through special districts or intergovernmental agreements, reducing or divesting programs. and services, increasing revenues, decreasing expenses and consolidating city-owned properties.

Firefighters and emergency services, police and finance come first by department of the general fund, according to the adopted biennial budget.

The budget of the Ashland Police Department is almost $ 8 million, 95% of which is spent on fixed-term contracts, staff and central services. The remaining discretionary sum funds supplies such as new uniforms and training, according to a budget presentation Monday by Police Chief Tighe O’Meara.

With an increase authorized to 32 sworn-in officers before the pandemic, O’Meara said he intended to schedule a supervisor and three patrol officers on duty at all times, allowing the department to handle two ongoing critical incidents at both without needing the help of another agency. The department has returned to a ceiling of 28 agents due to financial constraints induced by the pandemic.

According to the adopted biennial budget, a decrease in general fund expenditure of 6.86% in the second year is due to “systematic reductions in staff and operating equipment and supplies”, administrative functions and the department of operations. police taking the “most final reorganizations and adjustments of the services.” . “

O’Meara said in today’s staff environment officers are “less and less able to be proactive policing,” actively build relationships and “engage in the principles of justice. procedural ”, which is supposed to minimize incidents when the use of force becomes necessary by taking the time to slow down and prioritize respect, dignity and neutrality in decision-making with a suspect.

With part-time and full-time sworn cadet positions open and experienced staff moving to roles as needed, APD faces a difficult 20% operational impairment at a time when “the nature of policing in Ashland is changing, ”O’Meara said.

“I think the nature of a part of the community that police officers have a lot of interactions with has changed,” he said, noting the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the displacement of fires from forest and Medford’s criminalization of camping on the Bear Creek Greenway. during the fire season. “The officers are being executed in tatters.”

“It changes from people who resist because they don’t want to go to jail, to people who all fight with the police,” O’Meara continued, referring to two incidents from the previous fortnight in the city center. from Ashland. “I’m afraid something very important is changing here.”

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