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Ashland surveys residents on new $2 million budget gap

Erik Neumann / JPR

The city of Ashland is considering how to address a total $3 million dollar budget shortfall and avoid major cuts to city services.

Ashland approved a food and beverage tax in the early 90s, in part to help pay down the city’s wastewater debt and fund expansion of city parks.

But, according to City Manager Joe Lessard, the city has been planning to use funds from the food tax in ways that voters didn’t originally approve.

His proposed adjustment to the 2022-23 budget created a new $2 million gap that needs to be addressed strategically to avoid across-the-board cuts to city services. The remaining $1 million in the total $3 million deficit already existed in the budget.

Council member Tonya Graham said on Monday the council was previously correct in allocating those monies to the general fund, because some of the city’s original expenses – wastewater treatment debt and street repairs – were already paid for.

To help decide how the city will address the deficit, on Monday the council approved a survey that will be mailed to all Ashland residents in hopes of gauging their budget priorities.

“We need to ask the people in this community what they care about, so that we know where we can make cuts, what’s important enough to potentially increase revenues for, and what direction they’re hoping for their community," Graham said.

The survey to residents was delayed last week after it was leaked in draft form and caused confusion on social media.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.