One of the ways that the Albany City Council might try to raise additional money is to charge assisted-living homes an extra fee beyond their city taxes. Whether this idea gets anywhere remains to be seen, but as of now it’s still on a list of nine potential new revenue sources the council has been thinking about.
According to the list, assisted-living homes in Albany have about 1,000 residents, so at $200 per bed a year, such a fee would yield around $200,000 annually.
This doesn’t sound like much in comparison to the city’s general fund, which averages $43 million a year in the 2019-21 biennium. But it likely would be a big deal to individual residents living in these quarters, whose expenses probably would increase by $17 a month, as Councilman Alex Johnson II has pointed out.
The rationale behind the proposal is that according to the Albany Fire Department, assisted-living facilities make up a disproportionate share of non-medical calls for service. The department often responds to assisted-living homes to help someone who has fallen and can’t get up.
The operators of these facilities might point out that they’re already paying plenty for this service. Bonaventure in North Albany, for example, paid nearly $74,000 in city taxes alone in 2018, including $10,599 for the police and fire local option tax. And city taxes on Waverly Place, on Salem Avenue, totaled more than $63,000. (Taxes for schools, county government and other functions are not included in these numbers.)
What else is on the list of potential city revenue ideas?
♦ One item is the soda tax of 1 or 2 cents an ounce, as reported here last week. (My guess was that at 1 cent per ounce, it would yield about $900,000.) Here are the others:
♦ Increase the public-safety local-option property tax levy, which comes up for renewal in the May 2020 primary election. A 10-cent per thousand increase would yield about $350,000.
♦ Raise the membership fee in the city’s Fire Med program, now $65 a year. A $5 increase would yield about $12,000 a year, based on last year’s membership total of nearly 2,400.
♦ Impose an additional fee on city utility bills to help support the police and fire departments, or the parks, or the library system, or all three. The list before the council specifies no amounts, and a majority of council members have said they would require an election on any fee like that.
♦ Update the land-use application fees charged by the city planning division.
♦ Establish an indigent defense fund for the municipal court. If it was funded by a $25 fee per conviction or guilty plea in city court, the total might be $40,000 or $50,000 a year.
♦ Use the one million dollars the city got from Linn County for the former police headquarters on Jackson Street, now the base of the parole and probation department.
♦ Get voter approval of a bond issue of up to $20 million for street repairs.
Manager Peter Troedsson asked council members to rank their individual choices to see which one the staff should work on to develop further. He said this week he didn’t yet have all the responses back.
Already rejected, as a result of previous discussions, are other revenue ideas including higher franchise fees, an Albany payroll tax, and an increase in the transient lodging tax.
Still in the running are three potential ways to save money: Close the Carnegie Library downtown, close or reduce operations at the city-operated pool near South Albany High School, and explore forming a separate taxing district to take the library system off the city’s hands.
For the next two years, Albany’s biennial city budget of $347 million ($87 million in the 2019-21 general fund alone) is balanced based on decisions already made. As for new revenue or cutting expenses after that, expect to hear more in the coming months. (hh)