North Bend Government and Politics STOCK

NORTH BEND — North Bend City Council adopted a five year strategic financial plan in order to combat the rising costs of public safety and PERS.

“What we’re really talking about is flexibility versus five years of debt building, it’s a tough choice either way,” said North Bend City Administrator Terence O’Connor.

The council adopted a plan that would not include seeking a levy at this time, but may in the future. The document is pretty flexible year to year as to how the council wants to go about trying to fund public safety.

“The genesis of the plan was to find a way to preserve public safety without creating a substantial disruption to the public safety service,” O’Connor said.

According to the city finance department, the city needs approximately $2.2 million to operate police and fire from July 1 to December, when tax revenue starts coming in to fill operating costs for public safety.

The council decided between three different plans, and ultimately chose the third which took aspects from the first two. The plan includes employees with PERS accounts picking up six percent of their annual retirement savings, and continuing to collect public safety fees of $30 a month. By law, six percent is the maximum amount a PERS recipient can personally pay into their retirement.

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“Plan three provides the council the option of plans with the simple premises that provide local council and the public with a certainty as to rates and timings of increases,” O’Connor said.

City staff needed direction moving forward on the strategic plan so that they could begin to draft the city’s budget in the coming months for the next fiscal year.

“We now go forward as we prepare next year’s budget to rely on the public safety fee rather than anticipating a positive or negative vote in November on a bond levy,” O’Connor said.

All the councilors expressed that they were not particularly comfortable with continuing these fees, but that the alternative cuts to police and fire would harm the city as a whole.

“I might add at this time that both Chief Kappelman and Chief Meaker gave two very detailed and eye opening reports at the work session yesterday,” said North Bend Mayor Rick Wetherell. “If you hear those reports it might make you feel a little bit different about the actions we’re going to be forced to take.”

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.