Salem City Council Chambers. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The Salem City Council on Monday passed a $748 million budget as the city faces an economic crisis and communities across the country are demanding significant changes to police funding and practices.

Hundreds of citizens sent emails to the council asking that some of the police budget be spent elsewhere, while others said police funding should remain unchanged.

At Monday’s meeting Councilor Cara Kaser said that while the council can alter the budget after approving it, she said she didn’t expect changes to come that evening.

“I am supportive of changes if we have a plan in place for what those things are,” Kaser said. “There are folks who will think this is the final vote, but it’s really not.”

Revisions to the city’s budget are likely to come from economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but Salem was facing budget woes long before then.

“As the duration and depth of the damage to the economy becomes more apparent, the city will be able to gauge the fiscal impact and necessary response. City staff continue to monitor the ever-evolving situation and will communicate with the budget committee and city council as more of the financial impacts become known,” reads City Manager Steve Powers budget message.

Powers wrote that many of the revenue and expenditures projections contained in the budget will be impacted.

The Oregon Legislature is meeting Wednesday to pass measures related to police reform and the coronavirus pandemic. Kate Brown intends to call a special session later this summer to balance the state’s budget.

Last year, the council passes a utility fee that is projected to raise $7.1 million in its first year for the general fund. But a measure to impose a payroll tax which would have generated millions was removed from the May ballot because of the coronavirus.

DOCUMENT LINK: Salem 2020-21 budget

Here are some of the big numbers from the budget:

$662.5 million

That’s the total amount of money the city plans to spend in the next year. It pays for things like sidewalk repairs and water treatment.

The largest portion of this money – $74.1 million – comes from property taxes. The city also gets money from cannabis sales tax, parking tickets and alcohol beverage sales.

5.3%

Salem plans to spend an additional 5.3% this year, the equivalent of about $30 million in increased spending. In 2019, the city budgeted $632.3 million. 

43 positions

The number of additional full-time positions budgeted this year. It includes a human resources specialist, two programmers, an office assistant and four water treatment plant operators.

It also includes eight additional police department positions; four custodians and one HVAC technician to clean the new Salem police headquarters, two police dispatchers and a tech analyst to support the additional technology at the new station.

1,237 positions

The number of full-time employees at the city as of July 2019, which equates to 7.4 employees per 1,000 residents.

13%

The percentage of minority employees at the city.

25 individuals

The number of additional homeless people the Housing Rental Assistance Program can house after its budget was increased from $700,000 to $1.1 million. The money also includes funding for a housing navigator at the Salem Housing Authority and an outreach coordinator at the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency.

$154,000

The amount of additional funding Marion County gave Salem to add a new person onto the Police Behavioral Health Unit, which pairs officers with mental health professionals to help people in crisis. The Behavioral Health Team has a $781,080 budget.

$1.2 million

The amount budgeted for the city’s traffic safety fund to add red light cameras at three new locations.

The city created the fund last year and put a red-light camera at the corner of Northeast Fisher Road and Northeast Silverton Road last year.

38.4%

The expected increase in parking fees collected because of the long legislative session. Salem is expecting to collect $1.5 million from parking meters and electronic pay stations located at the library, downtown and the Oregon State Capitol.

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Have a story tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, saphara@salemreporter.com or @daisysaphara.