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COVID-19, Almeda fire take toll on Medford budget

Medford officials are looking at some belt-tightening in city departments because of expected revenue drops related to the Almeda fire and COVID-19.

The general fund budget for expenses in 2019-20 is $77 million, of which $73 million has been spent.

But city officials say they anticipate a large decrease in revenue in the current fiscal year of 2020-21.

They say it is too early to determine whether the revenue drops will affect staffing levels next year, but the city is looking at asking for greater justification from departments looking at new hires.

The city anticipates that in the first year of the upcoming 2021-23 biennium the area will continue to see reduced travel and recreation, lower interest rates and some impacts from the Almeda fire.

As a result, the city expects to see declining revenues in transient lodging taxes, car rental taxes, gas taxes, charges at parks and photo enforcement tickets.

The city Budget Committee met Thursday to discuss various budget issues and to get an idea of any financial headwinds as it begins a lengthy process to put together the upcoming budget that will be adopted June 3, 2021.

The committee discussed a number of options to help keep expenses down during a time of declining revenues.

New hires would have to be approved by the committee and included in the budget.

Departments would have to show efforts have been made to cut costs while improving service to customers.

Departments will have to look at extending the life of equipment and vehicles and justifying the cost of replacing older equipment and vehicles.

At the same time the city has planned for a $2.1 million hike in its share to the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System. In the current biennial budget the city will pay $14.8 million toward PERS, but it is expected to increase to $16.9 million in the next biennium.

The city has bargaining contracts with seven different labor groups, of which several have new contracts that will provide for cost-of-living increases.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.