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No idea, no matter how drastic, is off the table when the Albany City Council starts thinking about the city budget for 2012-13.

The council spent more than an hour Monday contemplating 12 questions by City Manager Wes Hare about what the council would consider to save money or raise more.

The ideas included starting new fees such as a business license tax, discontinuing the downtown urban renewal district, and borrowing some of the Pepsi settlement money for operations for a year.

The city budget process starts next month.

“We will have a clearer picture of our financial position at that time,” Hare said in a memo, “although we already know significant spending cuts will be necessary both this year and next.”

Hare presented his ideas in the

form of questions: Would the council consider ... ?

No votes were taken, but from the council’s informal conversation at Monday’s work session it appeared that all alternatives should at least remain on the table, even though it did not sound as though a council majority was in favor of any.

Among the possibilities:

• New fees such as a business license tax, or street or storm water charges billed monthly with water bills, or increasing planning fees.

• Elimination of specific services, though none were listed.

• A different compensation strategy for city workers other than police and fire employees, whose labor contracts by law are subject to binding arbitration and outside the council’s control.

• Dropping or limiting membership in groups such as the League of Oregon Cities or the regional council of governments.

• Reducing support of organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA.

• Contracting out or organizing new taxing districts to take over some functions, such as fire protection.

Councilor Bill Coburn wondered why the fire department charges for ambulance calls but not for fire calls. He said he wasn’t advocating anything, “just throwing out ideas.”

Hare asked for no answers Monday and got none. In his memo he wrote, “I believe we have to confront these issues, however, and ultimately be explicit in answering them.”

Democrat-Herald

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