Camas mayor unveils biennial 2023-24 budget

Council to hold public meetings, hearings on $243M budget before approval in December

Camas Mayor Steve Hogan this week unveiled his proposed 2023-24 biennial budget.

On Monday, Oct. 3, the Camas City Council reviewed the mayor’s recommended 2023-24 budget, which includes $243 million in expenditures.

The release of the mayor’s proposed budget kicks off more than two months’ worth of public engagement and discussion about how much the city will invest in its aging facilities, public safety needs, parks, roads, water and sewer plants and other city-run services.

Cathy Huber Nickerson, the city’s finance director, said Monday that community members will have several chances to comment on the budget during the Council’s upcoming workshops, meetings and public hearings.

“We will have a series of meetings with several opportunities for public involvement In October and November, with final approval (by Council) in December,” Huber Nickerson said Monday.

Hogan’s first crack at formulating the city’s biennial budget has “been a very collaborative process with the Council, the mayor, the public and the city administrator,” Huber Nickerson said, adding that the mayor’s recommended budget is “a balanced budget for the next two years.”

Huber Nickerson noted some of the proposed budget’s highlights, including:

  • $7 million to “address critical components of the city’s facilities assessment” report, which noted in July 2022, that the city is facing nearly * $35 million worth of needed upgrades and repairs to 17 of its publicly owned buildings, including $17 million in “observed deficiencies” that should be addressed in the next five years;
  • $2 million for “life-saving equipment” for the city’s public safety and fire departments;
  • $8.6 million to enhance essential transportation routes throughout the city;
  • $7.4 million for park and trail development, “the majority of which is for Crown Park,” according to Huber Nickerson;
  • $1.2 million worth of investments in the Camas Public Library; and
  • $1.3 million for “critical technology.”

The budget also calls for the city to use more than $24 million from its more than $100 million in fund balances; a 1% property tax increase; a 3% utility tax on the city’s water, sewer, stormwater and sewer utilities; and more $6 million from the city’s portion of the federal $350 billion American Rescue Plan COVID-19 recovery funds President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021.

The city recently asked Camas residents to weigh in on how the city should spend its federal COVID recover funds and found that options such as making improvements at Crown Park, investing in fire equipment replacements, addressing homelessness and establishing a “children’s learning hive” at the Camas library ranked high on the list.

Huber Nickerson said city staff will bring more information to the Council and the public regarding the proposed property tax increase and utility taxes during the Council’s Oct. 17 workshop and meeting, and will discuss the city’s capital budget and revenue options — as well as ongoing public outreach around utility taxes — at the Council’s Nov. 7 meetings.

Members of the public interested in learning more about the proposed budget also are encouraged to attend public hearings before the city council on Nov. 21 and Dec. 5.

The Camas City Council has met seven times over the past year to discuss what they believe are the city’s biggest priorities. Camas’ interim city administrator, Jeff Swanson, said Monday that, of the Council’s list of 51 priorities, the mayor’s proposed 2023-24 budget addresses 30 of them.

In a staff report presented to the Council on Monday, Huber Nickerson said: “the 2023-24 budget cycle is attempting a more collaborative process by … working collaboratively with staff to put forth decision packages for the Camas community to provide comment, present to Council, and work directly with the executive team.”

She added that the Council has had and will have “multiple opportunities in workshops, retreats, public hearings, documents, public engagement reports, and council meetings to consider the proposed budget,” and that the community has had and “will have a variety of ways to provide input including Camas Days booth, Balancing Act, Engage Camas, public hearings, citizen advisory boards, and Farmer’s Market booths.”