Mar 17, 2008

Taxpayer Money Down The Drain: $120,000/year.

The economic downturn, particularly the slowdown in the housing market, has had a noticeable effect on housing activity in Troutdale. During the first six months of Troutdale's fiscal year (7-1-2007 to 12-31-2007), the number of permits issued, fees collected, and inspections performs has dropped significantly. As a matter of fact, the number of inspections performed were the lowest for any six month period over the last three years.

Because of this reduction in revenue and work, city staff reduced the hours of some city building inspectors. This staff reduction would save the city $30,000 for the remaining four months of the fiscal year, and approximately $120,000 per year going forward. The other factor involved was the decision by the cities of Fairview and Wood Village to discontinue its building inspection contracts with Troutdale effective June 30, 2008- a loss of $230,000 in annual revenue.

No one can predict if or when building permit activity will pick up again in Troutdale.

However, a Troutdale City Council work session requested by Mayor Thalhofer was held on March 11. After city staff explained that reductions in staff hours were necessary to prevent future deficits in the city's building department, the city council, by a majority consensus, directed staff to reinstate the hours of the affected building inspectors for the remainder of the 2007-08 fiscal year. Their reason: It's in the budget, so city staff had to spend the money.

It's in the budget. So city staff has to spend the money. Even though there isn't enough work for the building inspectors. Even though there won't be any revenue to pay their salaries. And even though our city charter and city council rules prohibit the city council from meddling in day to day city operations, including staffing levels.

According to the city's charter and ordinances, the city council has delegated all day to day operational decisions to the city manager. Because of these reasons, I objected strongly to the city council's interference with city management's decisions.

Unfortunately, I was the only one. So $120,00 per year of taxpayer money will go to waste. And the city council's interference in city manager decisions can only hurt employee morale in the future. Why should employees listen to their managers when the city council will overrule management?

The Troutdale city council made a terrible decision, and broke the city's rules to do so. (As always, this is my opinion only and not necessarily the opinion of the Troutdale city council).

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