Responsible City Budget

After much deliberation, the Budget Committee approved the $75 million biennial budget.  The final budget document was modified and included additional neighborhood association funding as well as the elimination of electric vehicle charging stations.  West Linn continues to operate under with one of the lowest debt margins and an upgraded credit rating.  This budget reflects a solid foundation for West Linn to move forward with for the next two years.

Published Article in West Linn Tidings:

It was my pleasure to again serve on the city of West Linn Citizens’ Budget Committee. Local government budgeting in Oregon puts citizen involvement at the heart of financial planning. The Citizens’ Budget Committee comprised of five citizens and the five members of the West Linn City Council. On May 3 we approved a $75 million biennial budget for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The budget is balanced, as required by Oregon budget law.

The approved version of the budget included additional funding for neighborhood associations and eliminated funding for publicly available electric vehicle charging stations and for an electric vehicle. All other items in the approved budget were included in the proposed budget, which is available online at http://westlinnoregon.gov. To put the city’s approved budget into perspective, the city of Wilsonville’s budget for one year only totals $128 million – and that community has 6,000 fewer residents than West Linn. And, comparative research from the city shows that West Linn tax and utility rates are among the lowest in the region. The concept of “doing more with less” is quite true in West Linn.

My decision to serve to the community as a member of the Citizens’ Budget Committee is grounded in my expectation that the city operate in a fiscally restrained and responsible manner. Over the past three years, I have found that this is the case, and I would like to share with you three items worth mentioning. First, West Linn continues to have one of the lowest debt margins of comparable cities in the Portland metropolitan area. We will have an estimated $16.5 million in debt outstanding at the beginning of this budget biennium. Future debt plans may include a capital facilities bond measure to build a new police station to be placed on the ballot for voter consideration. Other cities the same size as West Linn often leverage much higher debt levels to total assets, but we have kept our debt margin as low as possible because interest savings is another way to save tax money for our citizens. Second, West Linn’s credit rating has improved in recent years, and has been upgraded to a solid double “A” status (i.e., AA from Standard and Poor’s and Aa2 from Moody’s) in September 2010 and city leadership plans to maintain this high rating going forward. West Linn has used this higher credit rating to refinance existing debt at a lower rate, thus achieving lower tax rates for residents.

Lastly, West Linn has shown a commitment to long-range financial planning, which is a key component of responsible financial management. From five-year financial forecasts that inform the budget process to an easy-to-read six-year capital improvement plan, the city of West Linn values financial transparency and makes information about the receipt and expenditure of funds accessible to all citizens. I encourage all residents to stay informed about financial management in West Linn. I believe that, if you stay involved, you will learn that West Linn’s financial house is in order and that the approved biennial budget is responsible and restrained. Thomas Frank is a citizen of West Linn. He has been a member of the Citizens’ Budget Committee since 2009.

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