The city of Pendleton continues to push most of its economic development chips toward the airport and its unmanned aerial systems test range, and the city’s latest budget proposal reflects that.

The city’s proposed budget states for the 2019-20 fiscal year that the UAS range is “indisputably Pendleton’s highest priority,” and City Manager Robb Corbett called the airport fund “a good news story” in his budget message.

The airport is more than doubling its budget from $5.1 million to $12.5 million in 2019-20, although a majority of that increase is coming from a $6.2 million Federal Aviation Administration grant to repave one of the airport runways.

The airport is expected to generate $1.3 million in revenue from “charges for services,” a slight increase from the current budget, but not all of that revenue comes from the UAS range.

The city’s economic development fund is one of the few funds that saw a drop, falling from $53,600 to $38,550, a trend the budget attributes to the need to increase the airport fund.

While housing remains an area of focus, creating new jobs isn’t as much a priority.

“Regardless of public perception, available housing and available workforce remain a much bigger challenge to the City than the creation of jobs,” the budget states. “At present, open jobs are abundant and often go unfilled.”

The city will invest much more in the UAS range in 2019-20 than it expects in return with the expectation that it will pay off in the future.

The city has budgeted $3.8 million from the water fund and $4 million from the sewer fund to help pay for the infrastructure to establish a UAS industrial park.

While the UAS range is the city’s top economic development priority, the Pendleton City Council’s top goal is fixing the city’s crumbling street system.

The council has challenged Corbett in recent months to redirect money toward road maintenance and he’s obliged by cutting various line items in the non-departmental budget, like halving the city’s contribution to the Pendleton Senior Center and Main Street flower baskets.

The budget states the city will have $1.2 million for street maintenance in 2019-20, and adding money from federal grants means Pendleton will spend a total $2.2 million on street construction projects.

One of those projects is slated to be the reconstruction of Southeast Byers Avenue, a frequently used road that runs by Washington Elementary School.

Other highlights in the budget include two new SUVs and body cameras for the police department.

The latter purchase requires an increase to the department’s materials and services budget because it will have to pay for the camera’s data storage fees.

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