Funding to improve roads and fix aging sewers will increase by 78% in the new two-year budget the Bend City Council adopted Wednesday night.

In a unanimous vote, city councilors approved a $887.3 million budget, an 18% increase from the biennium budget adopted in 2017.

The increase is driven in part by the budget committee allocating significantly more funding for road and wastewater infrastructure projects. They will largely be paid for through increases in water, sewer and franchise fees, as well as a bump in transportation system development charges.

About $74 million has been budgeted over five years to pay for a host of major transportation projects, with $52 million of that allocated for the next two years. The projects include extending the Murphy and Empire corridor, improvements to the Reed Market Road and Bond Street roundabout, and the Neff Road and Purcell Boulevard intersection.

The sharp increase is in response to citizen input that identified transportation and affordable housing as the community’s top priorities, said Sharon Wojda, Bend’s chief financial officer.

“Transportation was definitely made to be one of the biggest priorities,” Wojda said.

An increase in transportation system development charges from $6,800 to $8,000, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2020, will generate about $6 million more in revenue each year for transportation improvements. The revenue from franchise fees — which utility companies pay for the right to access city property — will also increase from $6.9 million to $9.4 million next year.

Of the $2.5 million increase, $251,000 will come from the increase of people moving to the area. The city will increase fees for utilities like Pacific Power to make up the other $2.2 million.

Another $136 million has been budgeted over the next five years to replace and repair aging sewer systems, including a major sewer line in the north end of town. About $90 million of this is to be spent in the first two years.

The projects will mostly be funded through a 6% average increase in sewer rates, as well as a 2% increase in sewer system development charges.

While the City Council has chosen an aggressive timeline for several infrastructure improvements, the city still expects to have about $400 million in backlogged road maintenance by 2040.

“The proposed budget makes significant progress in addressing key community priorities, but more long-term investment is needed … especially in affordable housing units and our transportation system,” City Manager Eric King wrote in a statement included in the budget document.

The city will also be adding more staff, including another police officer who will focus on homelessness outreach, with another $150,000 attached to pay for consulting services related to improving community partnerships for mental health and homelessness initiatives.

Six firefighter and paramedic positions are also being added this year in response to a 10.5% increase in calls in the last two years.

It is also an attempt to reduce the amount the city pays in overtime to emergency responders. Last year, $1.29 million is estimated to have been paid out to firefighters in overtime pay. The six new positions will result in about $1.4 million more in salaries, but slash overtime costs by nearly half, Wojda said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, bvisser@bendbulletin.com

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