REEDSPORT — On Tuesday, the city budget committee meeting sounded like a scene out of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?”
A balanced budget of $2,826,680 was toppled when the Teamsters Union rejected a cost of living freeze, budgeted to save $32,215.
Trying to appease Reedsport/Winchester Bay Chamber of Commerce members, the budget committee entertained a suggestion to use $12,500 from both motel tax and general fund to help pay for the operations of the Discovery Center, instead of the proposed $25,000 transfer of motel funds. The new alternative created confusion among everyone present.
“How many people are in favor of using that as an alternative to addressing this anticipated deficit?” said committee chairman Mark Bedard.
Ten members raised their hands, in favor, one in opposition, and Councilman Bill Walker posed the first question.
“Give me a better clarification, by eliminating the general fund transfer to the Riverfront fund, does that $12,500 stay in the budget or does it go to the Chamber?” he asked.
“Originally we voted to divert $25,000 of those room tax revenues to the Discovery Center, which would be coming from the Chamber to the tune of their ability to market our area,” said Bedard, trying to clarify. “Now we’re suggesting that we just divert $12,500 to the Discovery Center.”
“So if my vote was yes, would that $12,500 be given back to the Chamber —,” Walker asked.
“You said that we were or were not taking that money from the Chamber?” Walker asked. “The $12,500 is or isn’t going to go to the Chamber, is my question.”
“This assumes the 25 is off the table and now we’re looking at another number which is $12,500,” added City Manager Scott Somers, who has been working on developing the budget with city Finance Director Vera Koch. “So, if you voted in favor of this you’re voting to eliminate that general fund transfer which means $12,500 from the Chamber instead would go to the Riverfront fund.”
“So does that mean no money goes to the Chamber if you vote in favor for this?” asked committee member Judy Macho.
“No, it means all the money that originally has gone to the Chamber (except) $12,500 would continue to go to the Chamber,” Bedard said. “So let’s revote that, how many people —”
“It’s not half of it, it’s $12,500, $25,000 is gone,” Walker said. “The question is, is the $12,500 going to the Chamber or is it going to be used for the Discovery Center?”
The Chamber would still get $12,500 — “That’s what this assumes,” Somers said. “So it’s back on the table, if you don’t want that to happen, then you vote yes. Does that make sense?”
Audible ‘noes’ were heard from both committee members and the audience, which included several Chamber members. Committee members asked more, but each answer created more questions.
“I’ve got a clear handle on this, I’ll take another shot at it,” Bedard said, quieting the room. “If you vote yes to eliminate general fund transfer to the Riverfront fund, the savings would be $12,500. That money would not be going to the Riverfront fund and we would have to revert back to our original vote that we took three weeks ago. I don’t know that that can be put a whole lot simpler. If you vote yes for this, you’re voting to use $12,500 of the motel tax revenues to fund the Discovery Center in addition to $12,500 coming out of the general fund.”
The majority of the committee was still in favor of using $12,500 from the motel tax and the general fund, but Chamber members were still miffed by the suggestion, saying that using that money would be a breach of contract.
The budget committee is hoping that the Teamsters Union will reconsider its decision, helping close the deficit. Committee members expect to hear this week whether they have to close a gap of $12,500 or $44,715.
The committee will meet again at 7 p.m. April 30 to further discuss the budget.