Hermiston Council OKs Steps to Add Three Officers, Balance Budget

0
544

The Hermiston City Council approved three measures on Monday to add funding for three additional police officers and balance the 2023-24 budget.

At Monday’s meeting, the council passed the following measures that include spending cuts and new revenue sources:

  • Cutting the street maintenance budget and materials and services fund totaling about $490,000 annually
  • Increasing the Transient Room Tax on hotels within city limits from 8% to 9% for about $100,000 in additional annual revenue
  • Updating Planning Department fees based on inflation and cost increases for a projected increase of $80,000 annually
  • Creating a Law Enforcement Staffing Fee of $5 per month on all city utility bills for about $360,000 annually

The council also voted to table an ordinance that would implement a business license fee. The fee would be scaled based on the number of employees and location of the business. The council requested more information about how the fee would be calculated for small businesses before moving forward. The business license fee would be implemented in 2025.

The measures that were approved, plus a $125,000 federal COPS Grant for police funding recently received by the city, are projected to nearly cover the budget shortfall while adding three police positions. The council will consider the business license fee at a later meeting that would fill the rest of the gap.

The city council began reviewing the revenue, spending, and projected needs of general fund departments at its regular meetings in June 2023. These informational sessions were used to develop a plan to cover a $924,000 budget gap by making cuts and finding new revenue sources.

A town hall meeting and public survey were conducted in November and December to gather community feedback on budget priorities. Both public comment and survey results showed a strong desire to add officers to the Hermiston Police Department without putting the full cost on residents. Respondents also prioritized creating stable revenue streams for the city without adding additional residential taxes.

“The council heard from the community that public safety was important and that fees should be spread across business, residents, and visitors,” said Mayor Dave Drotzmann. “They made small adjustments to reflect those fee changes while still protecting low-income families and we appreciate the input we’ve received since we began this process in June.”

Video of all cty council work session reviews of general fund departments from June through November and the Budget Town Hall in November can be viewed on the city’s website.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here