Public packs hearing on City of Eugene budget cuts

Public packs hearing on City of Eugene budget cuts
The 6 budget-balancing proposals under consideration by the City of Eugene

EUGENE, Ore. - From across-the-board cuts to closing library branches, the City of Eugene has to close a $3 million gap for the 2014/2015 budget.

At a public hearing Tuesday night, a packed house of concerned citizens weighed in on the six options on the table for balancing the budget.

The room was filled with library supporters who held signs that read "Save Our Branch Libraries." Many of the attendees were against the possible closure of both the Bethel and Sheldon branch libraries.

Emergency service officials asked the budget committee to consider what cuts to their departments would mean for the city.

"Oregon has the lowest numbers of police officers per capita in the United States," said Detective Jeff Donaca, "and Eugene has less than most parts of Oregon."

Donaca said the loss of detectives means some crimes might not be investigated, like "missing persons, runaways, rape, robberies, burglaries, homicide, identity theft, gangs, organized crimes."

Eugene Fire Captain Mike Barnabee urged the budget committee to keep the fire department and paramedics at their current staffing level.

"Since 1981, the fire department responded to approximately 3,000 calls for service," he said. "In 2012 the fire department responded to approximately 21,000 calls of service, with no real increase in staffing or additional resources."

City budget minders said they've been talking about cutting some of the budget reduction options for years but have used reserve funds to keep them.

The next public hearing is Tuesday, January 28, at 5:30 pm in the Bascom-Tykeson Room at the Eugene Public Library.

The City said the finale decision will be made in May or June.