City manages to contribute to food bank, other causesGEARHART - State cutbacks and rising costs prompted the city's budget committee to recommend less spending wherever possible, including community contributions.

The city still plans to contribute to the South County Food Bank and other causes, but revenues leave little wiggle-room, City Administrator Dennis McNally said Friday. He commented about the town's proposed 2003-04 budget after the committee had reviewed the document, recommended minor changes and sent it forward to the City Council.

"It's just a matter of (applying) a sharp pencil," McNally said. "Money provided by the state is shrinking."

As an example, he added, "We've lost cigarette tax (revenues) already, and unless the state picture improves dramatically, we're not going to get any more."

State revenues for the program shrank by an estimated $3,500. As recommended, the community contributions Gearhart makes through the state revenue sharing program totals $22,297, down from $31,900 for the current year.

Three new requests for contributions were made in person last week:

• The Astoria High School summer marching band requested $500 for uniforms. The band plans to participate in Gearhart's Fourth of July parade;

• Seaside Hall, an umbrella program for eleven organizations in the area coordinating 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, requested $3,000. The budget committee recommended $1,000;

• The South County Food Bank has seen needs intensify as part of Oregon's statewide hunger problem, and requested $2,000. In March alone, the food bank served 83 Gearhart residents among 25 families, distributing 5,026 pounds of food.

The budget committee recommended adjustments to be able to contribute while staying with the same total. The food bank contribution was reached by shaving money from city consulting fees and office equipment, while the other two causes were supported by reducing contributions to other groups.

"Some of these groups we give to every year," McNally said. "With money becoming short, we just can't give to everybody, and the list (of those requesting) keeps getting longer."

Groups seeking funds will be asked to send representatives to speak with members of the budget committee next year, McNally said.

Overall, Gearhart's proposed budget total of $934,664 is $44,333 higher than the present fiscal year. The total includes fund transfers - in particular a shift of $72,367 to the water reserve fund.

That fund has increased to plan for a possible well study and future development of a city water system independent of Warrenton, from which Gearhart currently buys its water. Warrenton will continue to raise its rates to pay for required infrastructure improvements.

Much of the rest of the proposed budget is fairly level with the current year, McNally said.

Gearhart has eight full-time employees. The cost of living increase is 1.6 percent.

Temporarily high workers' compensation costs stemming from the death of volunteer firefighter Bob Chisholm during a rescue attempt in 1997 have gone down substantially, McNally said. On the other hand, Gearhart has seen a 2 percent increase in its contributions to the Public Employees Retirement System, or PERS, and is anticipating a 20 percent increase in health and medical insurance rates.

The largest portion of the budget is the police department, where the proposed total of $295,978 is close to the current year's total of $297,643. A vehicle replacement purchase is planned from its reserve fund, which stands at approximately $55,000.

The fire department's total of $159,420 is close to this year's budget of $154,914.

The state street fund budget includes the possible addition of $422,000 if the city receives a transportation enhancement grant to improve downtown sidewalks.

Gearhart was among 80 initial applicants and after the first round of cuts is still in the running to receive the state funds, McNally said.

The Gearhart City Council is scheduled to consider the proposed budget at its regular meeting on June 4.