By Marina Starleaf Riker

The Bulletin

The city of Bend’s budget committee unanimously approved the city’s proposed $695 million budget for the next two years, ending three days of meetings and detailed discussions that lasted more than 12 hours altogether.

The meetings brought city councilors and seven citizen members of the city’s budget committee to discuss Bend’s proposed budget. During the meetings, city staff, councilors and Bend residents weighed in on how the city should divvy up millions of dollars among city services, such as police, much-needed road maintenance and affordable housing programs.

The full City Council is scheduled to make final approval of the budget in June.

The city’s financial staff has spent hundreds of hours putting together the proposed 616-page budget, which outlines how the city will pay for things such as tourism marketing, staff salaries and sewer projects. Some of the biggest changes over the next two years include allocating more money for road repairs than in previous years, spending to plan for developing rural areas and hiring new employees to tackle issues such as parking downtown and affordable housing.

Sharon Wojda, the city’s finance director, said the city is creating about 16 new jobs. Some of the new hires will include more engineers to tackle big projects, as well as city administrative staff to allow them to execute those projects.

One of those new hires will be a coordinator who will oversee affordable housing programs, including the federal grants that the city receives.

Creating this position will allow the city’s affordable housing manager, Jim Long, to focus on finding new ways to boost the number of affordable housing units instead of managing complicated grants and programs, said Carolyn Eagan, the city’s economic development director.

The affordable housing position will cost the city about $121,000 each year, but part of that salary will be paid by federal money that Bend receives.

The city also plans to hire a parking demand manager, which will cost about $139,000 a year, to oversee parking downtown, which could mean coming up with parking fees and going door to door to Bend’s businesses to see where employees are parking.

“We really need to have someone come in who understands parking demands,” said Eagan, adding that the ideal applicant would understand how other forms of transportation — such as buses, Uber and Lyft — affect parking in downtown.

The Bend Police Department will also see two new community service officers, who cost about $35,000 less each year than sworn police officers, according to the city. Community service officers will handle complaints such as issues with animals and city ordinance violations to allow police officers to focus on more serious calls.

The effort comes as the number of 911 calls related to mental health crises went up 36 percent between 2015 and 2016 — a number that’s continuing to grow this year, said Police Chief Jim Porter. At least two sworn officers are needed to respond to each mental health call, which means there are fewer officers available to respond to other calls, said Porter.

“This is what’s drawing our work staff hours away,” said Porter.

­— Reporter: 541-633-2160,