Income’s not keeping up with expenses in Weed

Mike Meyer
Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers
Weed city councilors Ken Palfini, Susan Tavalero (mayor), Bob Hall, Stacey Green and Weed City Manager Tim Rundel toured Beaughan Springs last week. The site is located outside Weed on property owned by Roseburg Forest Products. The city secured long-standing water rights after a six-year battle with Roseburg, in a three-way agreement with Crystal Geyser Roxane, which donated nearly half the city’s cost, and Roseburg last month.

Equipment gets old, salaries increase, sewage systems reach capacity then exceed it, software changes and then training is required – expenses for an entity like the City of Weed always increase.

It becomes a problem when income doesn’t keep up with expenses over several years. A graph of Weed’s revenue shows 2020 income was less than in 2012/13.

Of the four sources of incoming tax money, three of them –property, hotel/gas, and franchise taxes – stayed flat during the nine-year period. Only the sales tax showed improvement  after a dive that bottomed out in 2015. Then it rose on an encouraging trajectory until 2019, when it dove again. By the end of 2020 it was below 2012/13 levels.

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“We’re stuck in a time warp,” said Tim Rundel, the city’s manager. “In business, expenses go up then prices go up. We’re forced to make do with the same income.”

Rundel addressed the city council during a special budget meeting held last Tuesday morning, April 6.

“It’s important to realize that our personnel expenses alone have gone up quite bit over the years. You have to pay those increases from somewhere.”

The city employs 27 full-time and nine part-time people who provide residents with a wide array of services: city employees fight fires, provide water, make sewage go away, repair roads, lend books, stop thieves from thieving, remove snow, control all the plans humans dream up that could impact the people and environment of Weed, protect itself in court against reasonable as well as malicious acts and suits, manage and budget for all services, and so on.

The most pressing need long term, Rundel said in his comments to the council, is the town’s sewer system. Rundel linked the city’s growth and financial well-being in the future with the functioning and capacity of waste collection, treatment and removal.

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Even the current situation is in trouble, illustrated by the capacity of the Shastina Wastewater Treatment Plant in south Weed. The facility’s capacity is 300,000 gallons per day, but 430,000 GPD are flowing into it, according to a report by PACE Engineering in February for the city and College of the Siskiyous. COS is in the process of designing new student housing on the Weed campus for as many as 396 additional on-campus student renters, for which the city would provide services. The Shastina plant serves COS.

Aside from the COS project, Rundel told the council, “Our future in Weed is heavily dependent on the sewer system. We get inquiries from companies thinking of relocating, including a recent outreach from a distribution center. But ... if there’s no good sewage system in place they’re gonna pass us by, and we stay where we are economically.

“We need a pretty substantial expansion,” Rundel said. The city expects a cost of $36-$40 million over the next 10 years to complete upgrades for the sewage collection and treatment facilities. Along with input from Weed Public Works Director Craig Sharp and PACE, Rundel will be discussing alternatives for the council to consider at future meetings.

Weed Police Department Chief Justin Mayberry in reports to the council said his department experiences “periods of failure” due to outdated radio consoles. Dispatchers use the consoles to communicate with officers in the field. The service life for Weed’s radio consoles, purchased in 1995, is 10-12 years. Mayberry indicated the consoles have been struck from previous budgets.