The Ashland Citizen Budget Committee will hold an informational meeting Thursday at the Ashland library to discuss erroneous projections in the city’s current biennium budget.
The errors were first confirmed after the Tidings asked three parks commissioners to respond to a $5.9 million projected deficit that has been cited in current efforts to recall them. Vote by mail ballots for the recall have been distributed.
Citizen Budget Committee members, who often found themselves at odds with staff and the council during the budget season in May, said they asked staff to address the projections at the budget meetings, but to little avail.
“We are holding the meeting to look at the methodology that was used in last budget season,” said Garrett Furuichi, vice-chair of the citizen budget committee. “We are also going to draft questions to ask the council about the errors.”
Finance Director Mark Welch confirmed on Feb. 13 that the 12 percent increase used to project salary, wages and fringe benefits was incorrect and described it as “a misunderstanding with previous staff.”
“The direction was to increase health care at 10 percent and (Oregon Public Employees Retirement System) at 2 percent. Instead of increasing those line items, the full 12 percent was increased from Personal Services,” Welch wrote in an email, adding that the projections affected the whole budget, including projections for parks.
City staff is now proposing to amend the personal services projection from 12 percent to 3.5 percent, effectively dropping the 2021-23 projected deficit of $5.9 million to $600,000 in the parks department’s budget. If approved, the amendment would also drop the city’s 2021-23 projected general fund deficit from $10 million to $2 million.
Furuichi said the meeting on March 1 will solely be informational and for “training and teaching people on how to read the budget.”
The meeting won’t fall under the state's public meeting law because the committee won’t meet quorum requirements, he said. The budget committee is made up of seven citizens, the council and the mayor, but only the citizen members are holding the meeting.
“Under budget law, we are not allowed to discuss future budgets,” Furuichi said. “But this is about the current budget and the projections in it.”
The meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.
— Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Tran Nguyen at email@example.com.