City of Hood River ponders layoffs

The city of Hood River is wrestling with a severe budget shortfall that could bring job losses and a reduction of services.

That's the grim news being delivered by Steve Everroad, city finance director, to the budget committee on May 7. To meet the current $300,000 deficit and plan for the likelihood that it will reoccur next year, Everroad said the city has to shave $600,000 from its projected $3 million general fund budget for fiscal year 2002-03.

"There's just a whole litany of things that are going to mean less revenue," said Everroad.

For example, Everroad said Oregon's economic woes and several ballot measures to roll back property taxes in recent years have lowered revenues significantly for public agencies statewide. In addition, he said after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks the local tourism trade dropped off and reduced the collection rate of motel room taxes. But even as the working capital is shrinking, Everroad said health care premiums for employees are rising by 30 percent.

To further compound the problem, Everroad said monies collected from building fees and other special programs are now mandated to be placed in dedicated accounts and are not available for general needs.

"We'll have a balanced budget for presentation in May, one way or the other," said Everroad.

Unless city officials can find other ways to trim the budget, city manager Lynn Guenther said seven employees face layoffs, which will mean a delay in provision of essential services. He said the remaining 50 staffers will get only a two percent cost of living increase this year, a situation that might not sit well with union representatives during the upcoming labor negotiations in late June. However, he said the situation is dire enough that if contract workers don't agree to the current terms it could force even more layoffs.

"We are looking at all the alternatives but the situation today looks pretty bad," said Guenther. "We need to stop the bleeding right now and make sure we don't have a deficit in the general fund next year."

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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