Fixing urban renewal’s levy grab (amended)

The bill is pending in the House Revenue Committee.

The bill is pending in the House Revenue Committee.

Albany's downtown renewal advisory board Wednesday heard about a bill which, in the interest of truth in taxation, ought to be passed. But first, it ought to be amended to apply right away.

The measure is House Bill 2632, sponsored by Rep. Margaret Doherty, a Democrat from the Portland area. It would allow all the money from local option levies to go to the purpose for which they are approved instead of allowing urban renewal districts to siphon off part of  the cash, as they do now.

Albany's Urban Renewal Manager Kate Porsche told the Central Albany Revitalization Area advisory board about the legislation. The bill is of interest in Albany because now, according to Porsche, CARA receives about $100,000 of the city's local option levy for police and fire. Albany's renewal district is one of a few falling under a particular provision of the law because of when it was formed, in the summer of 2001 just before the law was changed.

Albany voters renewed the police and fire levy -- in addition to the city's fixed tax rate -- last spring for five years. They were told the money would go to police and fire. Now they find some of it goes to renewal projects instead. This is big, and it is wrong. HB 2632 would fix it, but apparently only for new local option levies. The bill should be amended to affect existing local option levies too, to make sure that these levies are spent the way the voters were told. And then the bill should be passed. (hh)

A postscript: Kate Porsche tells me that making the bill affect existing local option levies would probably violate something, such as the constitution, because of the effect on contracts some renewal agencies might have. If that's the case and if the bill passes in its current form, Albany could ask voters to renew the police and fire levy again. Then, as a new levy, it would no longer have to give up part of its revenue to urban renewal. (hh)

Tom Cordier: Seems to me an Albany taxpayer could challenge the siphoning of monies from the recently passed Albany public safety levy by CARA.
The Albany public safety levy measure language stated what the monies would be used for. The language did not disclose to the voters that the city would or could divert monies to CARA. Full disclosure is required by ORS's. Perhaps the Linn County DA would file to direct Linn County assessor to prevent the city from mis-using public safety levy monies.

Rich Catlin responds on April 9:  To avoid conflicts with existing contractual agreements, perhaps HB 2632 could be amended to be optional for existing local option taxes, allowing a case by case examination to determine if there would be conflicts, and if not, apply the exemption.

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