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Bend's budget plan plays police, fire catch-up

By Joe Burns
Published On: May 01 2013 10:46:08 PM CDT

Bend and Redmond release budgets Wednesday. We take a look and talk about cuts.

BEND, Ore. -

The city of Bend released its proposed $494 million 2013-15 budget at a City Hall meeting Wednesday night, and there's better news this time around.

City Manager Eric King told NewsChannel 21 the city is seeing signs of a recovery, and the new budget is a reflection of that.

He said the city has built up reserves and will be adding staff for the first time in five years.

Redmond also unveiled its budget Wednesday, and their news is different, a more hold-the-line situation.

The seven jobs will come over the next two years and include two police officers, two firefighters and a variety of positions for infrastructure. However, the staffing in police and fire remain below the 2007 levels, King said in his budget message.

"One of the things we really pride ourselves on is to change with the economy and the demands of the community," King said. "So a budget is a fluid document. It's not something we just keep doing the same thing over and over. We always want to do business differently, and you'll see bits and pieces of that reflected in this year's budget."

The city saved upwards of $1 million on personnel costs after moving its entire workforce to high-deductible health insurance.

"Our rate increases for health insurance are at zero," King said. "So that's a real positive for maintaining our costs here at the city. It's allowed us to be able to make a few hires and improve service levels in public safety, for example."

Where the Bend is looking to hire a few more people, the city of Redmond is holding steady.

"The good news is staff is stable and staying stable," said Mayor George Endicott. "Our expenditures are staying stable, road maintenance is good. We are actually taking a little bit of that to move around because our roads, are in pretty good shape right now."

Redmond's budget is flat, meaning no cuts, but also no new hires.

"We budget really conservatively here in Redmond, so when we look at revenues we are just keeping the expenditures harmless as well," Endicott said.

While there's some positive news for the city of Bend after years of cuts, the city says it's still far behind to keep up with service demands for public safety and infrastructure.

"A lot of catch-up to do with some of the growth that occurred and getting that infrastructure around is expensive," King said. "And that has impacts to rates. We do as much as we can to lessen that impact and balance out affordability with rates, but also prepare the city for economic growth."

The public is able to comment towards the beginning of each Budget committee Meeting coming up on May 7, 8, 9 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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