GEARHART — Planning costs, legal fees and health insurance are driving the Gearhart budget to almost $1.7 million, up about $200,000 from last year. Some of these costs will be addressed by proposed short-term rental fees, which could bring in about $140,000 in revenue, City Administrator Chad Sweet said.

In a public meeting on the budget with members of the City Council and the Budget Committee last week, Councilor Dan Jesse questioned health care costs.

“The figures seem quite high for 10 employees,” Jesse said.

Jesse said numbers are slightly more than $250,000 for those 10 employees, or $25,400 a year per employee, averaging $12.21 per employee hour of work.

“We’re a small community with limited resources,” Jesse said. “Out of the total budget, it’s a huge amount of money.”

The plan, contracted with Citycounty Insurance Services, “does have the best rate for the type of plan we have, but it was made to be a Cadillac plan, so we’re going to be making adjustments,” Sweet said.

The employees’ health care plan is set to expire at the end of the year and would be reviewed then, he added.

The planning budget sees increases as a result of transportation system planning, park master planning and legal fees, Sweet said. “That’s in anticipation of some of the short-term rental conversations we’re having now,” Sweet said.

Building inspection fees will jump by more than a third in anticipation of new rules on short-term rentals, with a part-time administrative assistant planned to handle some duties.

The City Council is in the midst of public hearings on registration and licensing of transient properties — those rented for less than 30 days — which could be adopted this year.

Part-time Building Official Jim Brien will be used as a consultant in the first year before considering money for a full-time code enforcement officer, Sweet said.

“Until I know what normal is, I don’t want to hire someone,” Sweet said. “I’ve put aside $40,000 in code enforcement. It depends if the council allows 35 permits, or allows everybody to do it or somewhere in between. If we go to zero permits, we’ll have to figure out how to find funding, but that’s for conversations later. I’m basing this on our best guess at this point.”

City revenue is derived from property tax, franchise fees for companies such as utilities and transient rental tax dollars, Sweet said. He anticipated about $140,000 in vacation rental income based on the 73 short-term rental properties tallied by the city.

“If the number goes to zero, we’ll have to discuss that,” Sweet said.

The city receives $200,000 from condos and hotels, he added.

Nonprofit support

Gearhart’s budget includes funds for a wide variety of Clatsop County nonprofits, including social services, environmental management and hazard mitigation.

A budget line of $10,000 addresses a mapping of sensitive areas such as wetlands and fens. The North County Land Conservancy will inventory land in Gearhart and provide information on how they perform and what the city can do to maintain them, City Administrator Chad Sweet said. “It’s not regulatory, but when there is an incursion in these areas, the city can do what it needs to repair them.”

The city will provide support of $2,000 for the Oregon Badge Foundation in honor of Jason Goodding, the Seaside police officer killed in February.

The budget also includes expenditures for the Seaside Youth Center, Animal Control, the South County Food Bank and the Harbor.

Hazard mitigation reserve funds increase from $5,000 to $10,040, to be used on signs, cache storage, maps or projects with the city’s Community Emergency Response Team.

The budget was unanimously approved by the City Council and the Budget Committee and will be presented for a reading at a future City Council meeting for a vote by the council alone.

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