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Budget balancing – Silverton works funding plan amid staff shakeup

By James Day

The City of Silverton began work on its 2023-24 budget amid a staff shakeup that has the City Council initiating a search for a new city manager.

Ron Chandler, who took over the top administrative post in Silverton in May of 2021, is leaving effective May 12 and relocating to Utah. 

Silverton City Manager Ron Chandler, left, delivers the city’s budget message at the April 20 session of the city’s Budget Committee. At right is Kathleen Zaragoza, who will take over as interim successor to Chandler. The city’s top administrator  is leaving the city May 12.
Silverton City Manager Ron Chandler, left, delivers the city’s budget message at the April 20 session of the city’s Budget Committee. At right is Kathleen Zaragoza, who will take over as interim successor to Chandler. The city’s top administrator  is leaving the city May 12.

In an April 12 letter to the City Council and Mayor Jason Freilinger, Chandler tendered his resignation and advised the council “after careful consideration, my wife and I have decided to move closer to our children and grandchildren so we can become a greater part of their lives. It has been the greatest pleasure serving in and being a part of the City of Silverton. We have enjoyed it immensely and thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve.”

Chandler did not respond to requests from Our Town for thoughts on his tenure in Silverton.

At a special meeting April 17, the council unanimously named Finance Director Kathleen Zaragoza the city manager pro-tem and directed Zaragoza and city staff to work with the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments on recruiting a replacement for Chandler. The process is expected to take up to six months.

Zaragoza joined the city as finance director in October of 2003 and was elevated to deputy city manager/finance director in December of 2020. She has served many times as “interim” city manager on occasions when the city manager has been absent.

“It is an honor to be appointed as the pro-tem city manager and to know that the City Council has confidence in my abilities to handle issues that arise until a new city manager can be hired,” Zaragoza told Our Town in an email statement.

Chandler delivered the city’s budget message at the April 20 session of the Budget Committee, but Zaragoza and city department heads will take the spending plan the rest of the way. The city plans to spend approximately $74 million, with city employee ranks scheduled to remain at approximately 54 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs).

During the public comment period of the Budget Committee session the 14-member committee, which consists of Freilinger and the six councilors and seven citizen members, heard three funding requests from The Oregon Garden.

The Garden is seeking $2,500 to pay for fireworks at a July 3 event, $5,000 in hotel tax funds for a “Music on the Lawn” series of concerts and up to $25,000 in other funds to pay for a pedestrian path that would parallel the road up to the resort from the Schmidt Pavilion. Garden officials say the path is an important safety issue for customers and resort guests.

Councilors unanimously approved the fireworks request but still can choose to address the other two during the rest of the budget process. The committee was scheduled to continue its review of the budget at a April 25 session that occurred after Our Town’s presstime. The committee can hold further sessions if necessary to complete its work on the spending plan.

The City Council is tentatively scheduled to approve the 2023-24 budget at its June 26 meeting, a session in which councilors also are scheduled to review the budget for the city’s Urban Renewal Agency (URA).

At the April 20 Budget Committee session, Chandler and Zaragoza also briefed the city’s URA Budget Committee, which consists of the same 14 members as the Budget Committee, on the budget for urban renewal projects.

The city plans to spend approximately $2.35 million on urban renewal, with $300,000 headed to an as yet undefined downtown improvement project. The URA committee received a request for funding from the Silverton Arts Association, which is seeking city assistance with heating and ventilation (HVAC) and roofing problems at the art center in Coolidge McClaine Park. The city owns the building, which lies in the city’s urban renewal district. The city charges the association $1 per year in rent.

The URA committee approved the 2023-24 budget without acting on the Silverton Arts Association request. However, Zaragoza said the group is welcome to work through the URA’s advisory committee to get its request back before the URA budget panel.

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