The cities of Tigard and Tualatin are looking at vastly different budget scenarios as the end of the fiscal year draws nearer.
The cities are going through their annual budgeting processes. Their fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. Nothing is official until it is finalized and approved by their city councils, but both cities' proposed budgets would create a few new staff positions.
Tigard officials worry about fiscal picture
In Tigard, the proposed $218.3 million budget would make investments that City Manager Marty Wine characterized in her budget message as providing for "existing programs that represent a necessary cost of doing business so that we can attempt to keep our current service levels up with existing demands."
Wine added, "This means Tigard will not invest in expanding services or starting new programs or initiatives given the budget situation we face."
Tigard city officials have long been concerned about the city's long-term financial situation. Tigard has one of the lowest permanent tax rates on the Westside, and Wine warned in her budget message, as she has in previous years, of "continually eroding day-to-day city services if we continue on our current financial path."
"Without resolving to increase resources, the services that residents tell us they value will be at risk," Wine stated. "Tigard continues to face a structural financial imbalance in which city expenditures grow slightly faster than our resources, even with the actions that we have taken to manage the growth in our costs. Although we are careful stewards of the funds the citizens entrust to the city, Tigard has reached a point where our programs and services cannot keep up with demand, and services cannot be added or expanded without additional resources."
Tualatin 'blessed' with strong, stable revenues
In Tualatin, the picture painted by City Manager Sherilyn Lombos and Finance Director Don Hudson was considerably sunnier. The mood at a budget committee meeting Monday, May 8, at the Tualatin Police Department was downright cheerful, replete with declarations about how "blessed" the city is and how "very excited" city officials are about the future.
"We are happy to report that our overall revenue picture is continuing its stability and we anticipate that it will remain stable in the immediate future," Lombos wrote in her budget message.
Unlike in Tigard, Tualatin's revenue growth is outstripping rising expenditures as the city grows. Its $91.7 million proposed budget represents nearly a 9 percent increase over the current fiscal year's budget, with just a 1.52 percent increase in expenditures versus a 6.37 percent increase in revenue.
Tualatin's hale fiscal picture comes in spite of its own low permanent tax rate. In fact, Tualatin's rate is about a quarter per $1,000 in assessed value lower than Tigard's — and second only to West Linn among Westside cities. (Unusually low property tax rates are endemic to Portland's southwestern suburbs: Wilsonville, to Tualatin's south, has a permanent tax rate of less than a penny per $1,000 more than Tigard's.)
The city does benefit from business tax collections. Tualatin has among the largest inventories of industrial land in the region and is home to major commercial developments like Nyberg Rivers, Nyberg Woods and Bridgeport Village, the latter of which it shares with Tigard and tiny neighboring Durham. It is also somewhat more affluent than Tigard, with the U.S. Census Bureau estimating its median household income in 2015 dollars at $66,384 to Tigard's $53,889.
A table produced by the City of Tigard shows Tualatin ranks just above Tigard in terms of property taxes collected per resident, with $324.77 to Tigard's $292.53. (Both rank below the likes of Portland, Beaverton and Lake Oswego, while topping neighboring Sherwood and Wilsonville.)
Both cities look at adding staff
Tigard's proposed budget represents a 23.3 percent increase in total requirements over the budget adopted for the current fiscal year. It is framed as ensuring continuity of services, although it does provide for a few new hires.
The draft budget document calls for adding an assistant city planner to work on economic development in Tigard, a senior project engineer to focus on transportation upgrades, and a fleet and facilities manager to oversee vehicle and building maintenance, as well as additional library, police community engagement and management analysis staff.
In Tualatin, the proposed budget would add a community engagement coordinator to work on "outreach, diversity and inclusion efforts" and an additional police officer. It would also create a part-time library assistant position to support the city's Makerspace program.
The city, in partnership with local nonprofits and others, rolled out a "Mobile Makerspace" trailer and accompanying science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) educational tools and curriculum during this fiscal year. Library outreach staff have been at the forefront of that push, visiting classrooms and appearing at community events to engage elementary-age children in STEAM learning and play.
Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden has said he expects the city to fund the installation of a permanent makerspace at the Tualatin Public Library itself, although it is unclear whether that will happen in the next fiscal year.
In Tigard, where city officials are concerned about an approaching "fiscal cliff" due to dwindling reserves and expense growth outpacing new revenue, the City Council is considering referring a local option levy for city services to the ballot next year. A possible bond measure to pay for city facilities is also being mooted.
The city is seeking volunteers to serve on an 18-member "advisory task force" that will explore the bond and levy ideas. Applications can be submitted via the city's website.
In both Tigard and Tualatin, the budget committees will consider the proposed budgets from city staff and make recommendations to their city councils.
The current fiscal year ends June 30. Cities must adopt their budgets by then through a council vote.
By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times