Letters to the editor

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A good question was raised the other day concerning the use of water funds to pay a portion of the city manager’s and assistant city manager’s salary in Manzanita. It was thought that it was just a matter of shifting funds around from the same pot of money. Actually, there are two pots of money. One pot, mostly user fees, is used to operate the water department, the other pot, consisting mostly of taxes, fees and fines is used to support the administration of the city and the police department. The city government receives funds from the water department to do the billing and administer contracts and such. If the city claims more than is necessary to administer the water department it depletes the water department’s ability to do it’s job and puts pressure to increase water rates. This extra amount over and above what the city actually does for the water department is a hidden tax and is illegal. Paying 50% of the city and assistant city manager’s salary from the water fund is too much.

Mayor Scott says the council spent a year working on the problem and finally had to hire a consultant to solve it for them. The consultant, with very little data, had to construct a payment ratio essentially “out of thin air.” He concluded that the 50% ratio was indeed too high and reduced it to 30% thereby validating Mr. Kugler’s concern. The 30% share is still higher then other comparable cities in size and responsibilities. The consultant did find other places to apply the excess water fund transfer ending in little or no change in the money taken from the water department to support the city. Essentially a “rearrangement of the deck chairs.” Had Mayor Scott directed all city employees to fill out time cards a year ago, as Mr. Kugler had suggested and which the Public Works Department already does, the council would have had the exact data to make the apportionment and they would not have needed a costly $28,000 consultant to conger up a ratio which leaves the validity of the present water fund transfer still on shaky ground.

Until this year, I had been on the budget committee for 28 straight years, ever since its inception, I think. The mayor wrote me a letter and thought that after that long of a stretch I might not want to reapply for the position. I appreciated his concern. I did not reapply not because I was tired, the job is not that hard, but for the following reasons: 1) I found the mayor hard to work with and combative when his views are questioned not only on budget matters but on questions on the new city hall as well. 2) I thought by not reapplying there would be one less excuse not to appoint Randy Kugler, arguably the most qualified person in Manzanita, to the job. And 3) As Harry Truman said of the vice presidency “the job wasn’t worth a spittoon full of warm spit”. The citizen members of the budget committee have very little effect upon the budget proposed by the city manager and city council. I must admit I voted, but not always, for the budgets proposed by Jerry Taylor for over 20 years including the the 50% water fund portion of the city manager’s salary. Without proper records, the only thing I or any other member of the budget committee could do was trust the city manager’s assessment. I later found out through figures from other cities in Oregon of comparable size and responsibilities, as researched by Mr. Kugler, that the figure should be closer to 15%. Time cards should be kept so that everyone including the city manager and city council as well as the budget committee members can make more and better informed decisions on the entire budget.

Terry Staehnke


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