PENDLETON:  Corbett’s cuts include selling the Vert

PENDLETON: Corbett’s cuts include selling the Vert

Pendleton City Manager Robb Corbett was given an assignment from the city council. He was to find money to beef up the street repair fund to $1.2 million without raising fees or attempting to institute new taxes. He has to make up a shortfall of $185,000.

He found the money, and he says it appears his most controversial suggestion is selling the Vert Auditorium, which costs the city $65,000 a year to maintain.

“I understand there’s a strong connection with that building and this community because so many people grew up there,” he said.

He adds that the city is not in a position to become an aggressive marketer of the facility for entertainment events, and he’d like to see owners who would do that because that’s essential for their business to succeed.

“There is a substantial cost to the city to maintain that building and it generates virtually no revenue,” Corbett said.

That’s not the only suggestion. Corbett said more cuts would have to be made in services to bring the street repair fund up to the level the council desires.

He recommends eliminating the city’s RARE intern, which would save $22,000 a year; ending the city’s contribution to the city’s arts commission, which would save $18,000; and eliminating the “other” category in the general fund, which includes Christmas lights, flowers, and insurance for the senior citizens’ center. Those cuts would add another $29,000 to road maintenance. Finally, he recommends totally eliminating the economic development fund which stands at $54,000.

Corbett said the city’s general fund is broken and he opposes using the general fund to balance the street maintenance budget. He was also frank about the problems that the above cuts would create.

He said the Pendleton Arts Commission could work to leverage more grant funds to stretch its budget out for a period of time, but that would only be a temporary fix. RARE interns have brought quick results on a number of priorities like housing and energy efficiency and the city would see that progress slow. Eliminating the economic development fund would shove those expenses to the airport’s budget because it would be the only money available to the economic development director.

“In discussing this with the parks and recreation director, he is implementing cost recovery changes in recreation,” Corbett wrote in his report. “He conveyed that we are recovering 19 percent of our costs through fees. The industry standard is 40 to 60 percent. If we increased cost recovery, we would realize around $100,000 in new revenue.”

He also looked at the maintenance of city parks, saying that the standards could be lowered and some of the neighborhood parks could be eliminated. That would save the general fund as much as $50,000.

“I am opposed to using the general fund to balance the needs of the street fund because we are displacing the problem,” Corbett wrote. “We will have nicer roads, but we will exacerbate the problem in the general fund.”