St. Helens considers fund reallocation, restructuring in next year's budget
St. Helens staff will take a look at reallocating funds within its budget and restructuring certain departments over the next few years as a means of improving the city's bottom line.
During a City Council work session Wednesday, March 15, city Finance Director Matt Brown discussed with the council options based on ideas he had earlier presented about ways to generate new revenue.
Brown's ideas included unconventional proposals like developing food and soda taxes, as well as more mainstream concepts such as fee adjustments and department restructuring.
One option the council fully supported Wednesday was the reallocation of 10 percent of hotel and motel taxes from the visitor and tourism fund to the general fund to cover associated administrative costs, netting roughly $15,000 in the next fiscal year budget if implemented.
Another cost-saving option was to alter the municipal court system and change what types of cases the court processes. Brown outlined several options that included potentially reducing full-time employees in the court system and processing only traffic citation cases as cost-saving measures. Those savings effects would likely take nine months to a year to be realized, Brown explained.
Brown also briefly discussed the possibility of eliminating the court system altogether and transfering those employees to other departments, a move that could save more than $100,000 in materials and service fees over the long term.
Councilors also heavily discussed adding a half-time Building Department employee in the next fiscal year in anticipation of construction growth that could develop as the city's waterfront planning efforts move forward.
While the addition of the position would not be revenue-generating, Mayor Rick Scholl and Councilor Ginny Carlson both mentioned a public perception of the city being unfriendly to the business community.
Scholl cited the lengthy amount of time it takes to receive building approval from the city as one of the main reasons for being "stamped as unfriendly," he said. He suggested the council consider options to speed up that process, which could include adding staff.