A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany council enacts new city fee — or tax

Written June 23rd, 2021 by Hasso Hering

Albany City Hall in a shot from a year ago. The city will start collecting a new services fee next month.

Well, it’s official now. The Albany City Council has adopted a new “city services fee” — or utility tax if you will — to help support its general fund, which pays for police, fire protection, parks, libraries and planning, among other things.

The vote Wednesday night was 5-1. The lone no vote was that of Councilwoman Matilda Novak.

Novak believes the fee is not sustainable because all the things pushing city expenses higher  — “that’s the system and the way it is,” she paraphrased the prevailing attitude — will continue to do so. And unless the system is repaired, the only thing future councils can do is to raise the fee in coming years.

Novak pushed for at least a one-month delay in starting the new charge, which will be added to monthly utility bills, hoping that by then the state would let all businesses return to normal operations so the fee would not hit them as hard. But her motion to that effect lost 2-4, with only Councilman Dick Olsen joining her.

The new fee takes effect July 1 and is estimated to yield $5 million during the 2021-23 two-year budget period.

For residential households, it’s an additional $9 a month. For apartment complexes it’s $7.50 a month per unit. For utility customers such as businesses, from restaurants all the way to supermarkets and big industries, the added monthly expense depends on the size of their water meters.

The council also voted to apply a low-income discount the same as now exists for water bills, but to work on improving that program to cover more people, a process the staff said would take several months to work out.

It’s hard to explain exactly why the city insists on calling this a fee and not a tax. Either way, though, Albany utility customers will have to pay it or, eventually, have their water cut off. (hh)

28 responses to “Albany council enacts new city fee — or tax”

  1. Mad constituent says:

    Sad how only novak and Olson listen to their constituents on this. The others obviously don’t care about people in this city. The least they could of did is put it off for a month. Mrs Novak begged the others and they spit in her face! I know mrs smith will be on here soon trying to plead her case…. but shame on her and the others for not even allowing a month.

  2. James Engel says:

    Hummmm, …”water cut off” Wasn’t here a quote in Alice in Wonderland by the Queen…”off with their heads”. Well at least Novak stood up to her election promises.

  3. Jill Morgan says:

    So we will have to pay $9 monthly on our water bill for items that have nothing to do with water…and if you fail to pay it your water will be shut off? What if I pay all of the water part of the bill, and not the new service “fee”, will they still shut off my water? How is that even legal? If the taxpayers would have wanted to pay more for services wouldn’t they have passed tax levees for these services in the past? The city had a budget with cuts in place, they should have stuck with that and given taxpayers an opportunity to see what occurred with the cuts in services. If taxpayers didn’t like the results then they could vote for raising taxes to support those programs which were cut. If the Council is going to do taxation without taking it to the voters, then anytime there is an opportunity to vote on a tax measure there is sure to be a backlash in my opinion.

    • Bob Jones says:

      It sounds like you might be struggling to pay an additional $9 per month for this new fee/tax/whatever. Good thing it sounds like there is a low-income program in place to help our most vulnerable populations like yourself.

      • Jill Morgan says:

        Jumping to conclusions Bob…no, I just don’t expect to pay for other agencies costs via my water bill. Just like I don’t expect to pay my gas bill via my cable bill. It was bad enough when they added sewer fees years ago, then wastewater fees….but at least those are related to water in some way, shape or form. I’ve been around Albany long enough to remember when Albany bought the water system from PP&L and how the “old timers” back then said how it was going to really cost us, little did they know!

  4. Jake Jaques JJ Johnny Hartman says:

    Call it a tax or a fee. The name is unimportant. The question boils down to what are Albanians willing to pay-up for? Clean water seems important. So, if the gripe is that overall City revenues are too steep, then what are Albanians willing to do without?

    Defund the Cops?
    Defund Fire/Ambulance?
    Defund the libraries?
    Defund the City Maintenance?
    Defund City Employee Benefits/Health Insurance?
    Defund Mass Transit?
    Defund City Parks & Rec.?

    Griping from the sidelines is easy. Griping is what many Albanians excel at.
    But making a choice means oxen being gored. Who wants their ox to be the one to get gored? Talk is CHEAP.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Evidently scaling city expenditures to existing revenue is too much to ask from city government.

      You’ll never know what Albanians are willing to “pay up for” as long as city government is unwilling to ask for permission to take more money.

      Just unilaterally exercise absolute power. Domination is the name of the game. And it’s easy when the sheep are docile.

    • sonamata says:

      Well said, JJ. If you add the annual Albany police budget to the proportional Linn County sheriff budget (based on population), it’s about ~$400 per Albany resident, or ~$1060 per household. That’s equivalent to a significant chunk of most people’s property taxes, just for policing. They have some of the most expensive employees (union, increased PERS basis), and we have them monitoring lawn cars and responding to mental health calls that less expensive, better-qualified workers could handle.

    • Glenda Fleming says:

      I think the majority of Councilors did the responsible thing. When they saw that funding to maintain important City services was insufficient, they did what they could to maintain them. People were going to gripe, regardless of whether there was a new fee, or whether they didn’t receive services they needed. The Council acted for the well being of the community. I think it took more guts to support the fee than to vote against it.

      This fee will be painful for me. I already struggle to pay my water bill, but don’t qualify for assistance. Nonetheless, when I need City services, I need them right away, not later or never because they were defunded.

      • Steven Reynolds says:

        Elections have consequences, a very sad meeting to watch, Councilor Novak pleading and the Marie Antoinette “cake” type response she received. Maybe next time around residents won’t just take those running at their word, they’ll dig a little deeper. Maybe organizations like the Chamber will spend a little more time vetting candidates before they endorse those that hurt their members. This council has a certain political ideology, if you’re a public sector retiree or worker you are probably in favor of this council’s direction, after all that’s whom is making up most of this council or in the case of Councilor Johnson, she not only advocates for how much she deserve her PERS pension benefits but is also on a well, she’s managed to figure out how to take advantage of just about everyone at every level. If you’re trying to survive in the free market economy (or what’s left of it), this council is probably not working for your interests.

      • Johnny Scot Van Ras says:

        In light of today’s announcement by Gov. Brown that the the whole of Oregon will be open no later than 6/30/2021.

        I, on behalf of the citizens of Albany, strongly request an emergency session of the Albany City Council to reverse the fabricated need for the $9. per month utility tax.

        The only city councilor to represent the citizens of Albany in last Wednesday circus meeting is City Councilor Matilda Novak. She alone advocated for the citizens of Albany.

        • Bob Jones says:

          Fabricated? The issues in their budget seem to have been here long before COVID. Rising salaries and benefits, driven by public safety, which seems to make up almost 70% of their general fund. Only need to look at our host’s own blog from 2019 to see that: https://hh-today.com/albany-lists-city-wages-paid-last-year/ “Eighty-two people on the Albany city payroll for 2018 were paid more than $100,000 each. Of those, 67 were in the police or fire departments.”

          So to Jake Jaques JJ Johnny Hartman’s question…. what do you want to cut?

  5. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Let’s give a golf clap to Albany’s politicians.

    They won’t cut spending to meet a revenue shortfall, but are always looking for innovative ways to pluck more feathers from the goose without causing a ruckus.

    They know they can get the bucks with “fees” because asking for permission to raise the property tax rate would result in lots of squawking.

    A quiet hike in “fees” is far easier.

    So stay quiet Albany. Your politicians are banking that you won’t miss another feather.

  6. Zayne Underwood says:

    With arbitrary decisions of this nature costing us more money and the city sticking their hands deeper and deeper into our pockets which frankly I am sick of and not putting it to a vote with the taxpayers of this city, all we can do is stand up and tell these council members not get too comfortable because we’re going to vote them out!

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Yes, you can do something.

      Change the city charter through the initiative process to require the council get voter approval for new or increased “fees.”

      The initiative process has worked in the recent past.

      The council now has to get voter approval of debt.

      The council now has to get voter approval for a new urban renewal plan.

      It takes leadership, but it can be done.

  7. Michael Mathers says:

    Actually, the cost will be more than $9 for residences. The extra charge at businesses will be passed on to the customer so we will pay the $9 plus whatever the extra cost is at restaurants, grocery stores, etc. Do you think the businesses are going to just eat the new charge?

  8. Pat Quinn says:

    So now I ask again, since they have now enacted the tax, we should no longer need a police, fire, and ems levy, correct? This fee should fix the budget for them since these agencies are the ones the city said would suffer should they not enact the utilities tax. Just curious.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      You ain’t seen nothin yet.

      In 2028 the 2002 PERS bonds (debt) will expire and a new source of money will have to be created. The council probably won’t refer a new bond to the voters. I doubt it would pass.

      So they will need to create a new PERS fee and add it to your water/sewer bill, or maybe to your garbage bill.

      What is certain is millions more will be needed to finance the city’s portion of the state’s unfunded liability.

      At the next council meeting ask them what their plan is to replace the 2002 PERS bond money. If they say nothing, or worse yet, say 2028 is too far into the future to worry about, your BS meter should quiver uncontrollably.

  9. Bill Kapaun says:

    As a sign of protest, wait until the last day before paying any City or Republic Services bills. At least they will be deprived of any interest income on YOUR money.

    • Jeff Senders says:

      why take it out on Republic Services? They are innocent!

      • Bill Kapaun says:

        Because Republic Services pushed weekly yard waste pick up on everybody, no matter how little yard waste they have. The City adds the “Franchise Fee” aka TAX on to the additional charge. In order to get a few pennies more out of us, the let Republic charge us nearly $3 additional per month.

        Thanks for playing.

  10. hj.anony1 says:

    I speak to the choir here…

    This is DANGEROUS!

    $9 now, $12 next month, $19 next year. No, it does not end. Up N Up MORE MORE


  11. Bill Kapaun says:

    Another SCAM the City pulls is “perceived” sewer usage.

    Your monthly sewer usage charge is based on your average usage from your Nov-Feb water bills. The idea is that these are the 4 wettest months and you won’t irrigate. Trouble is, your Nov bill included the last 3 weeks of Oct and the 1st week of Nov. Oct can be extremely dry. A person that has irrigated their lawn in hopes of keeping it green either end up paying artificially high monthly sewer usage charges for the coming year or letting their expen$ive effort turn brown.

    The HONEST thing to do would be a Dec-Mar billing period for next years sewer use.

  12. Johnny says:

    Despite this new “Fee” the Fire Dept. still laid off three people and now have one less ambulance on the road and one less deputy fire marshal.

    • Curmudgeon Bob Jones says:

      And the police, parks, and library have all made cuts too. Public safety gets almost 70% of the general fund and a levy and they still can’t seem to live within their budgets. Hmmm…. I wonder why?

      https://hh-today.com/albany-lists-city-wages-paid-last-year/ “Eighty-two people on the Albany city payroll for 2018 were paid more than $100,000 each. Of those, 67 were in the police or fire departments.”

      • Johnny says:

        I agree that this is a high wage but I know that those wages are inflated by overtime. The Fire service can’t choose to not have coverage. You can’t pump a fire and fight fire at the same time, you can’t have one person on the ambulance.
        Also please don’t forget their pay is based on a 56 hour work week. So while most enjoy 160 hours a month most firefighters work about 240 hours each month without overtime.
        Police also can’t simple run short, there must be coverage so overtime will get paid.
        Although many other services in Albany have been reduced the stakes are much higher for police and fire.

  13. Steven Reynolds says:

    Go talk to these people and there $80k a month payments. Don’t blame the community for any of this, we’re as much victims as those losing their jobs..

    ROBERTSON, JOSEPH E $80,245 2017-11-01 Tier One 393 Full Formula $1,563,517 $962,939 62%
    DELASHAW, JOHNNY B $60,572 2015-09-01 Tier One 241 Full Formula $1,804,076 $726,868 40%
    BELLOTTI, ROBERT M $49,407 2010-05-01 Tier One 254 Full Formula $1,320,236 $592,886 45%
    SWANSON, NEIL $44,544 2012-04-01 Tier One 273 Full Formula $1,074,654 $534,523 50%
    WILSON, DAVID J $38,866 2019-07-01 Tier One 372 Full Formula $774,593 $466,389 60%
    KELLER, FREDERICK S $37,597 2011-06-01 Tier One 315 Full Formula $786,471 $451,164 57%
    DAILEY, ROGER A $37,072 2014-06-01 Tier One 287 Full Formula $826,751 $444,862 54%
    LOVELAND, WALTER D $36,309 2019-01-01 Tier One 615 Money Match $135,321 $435,713 322%
    RAD, FRANZ FARROKH N $31,783 2017-12-01 Tier One 557 Money Match $168,260 $381,390 227%
    CROSS, TERRY L $29,260 2018-11-01 Tier One 557 Money Match $145,954 $351,118 241%
    NORTON, ROBERT L $28,277 2017-07-01 Tier One 444 Formula Plus Annuity $413,205 $339,318 82%
    HALLICK, LESLEY M $27,347 2009-06-01 Tier One 386 Full Formula $443,520 $328,162 74%
    SPILDE, MARY F $27,236 2017-05-01 Tier One 438 Full Formula $338,630 $326,832 97%
    GOLDSCHMIDT, STEVEN M $25,715 2005-11-01 Tier One 362 $220,013 $308,583 140%
    KORACH, WILLIAM A $23,984 2011-03-01 Tier One 491 Money Match $148,987 $287,808 193%
    KOHLER, PETER O $23,709 2007-01-01 Tier One 185 $760,696 $284,509 37%
    BILLUPS, JANET N $23,673 2017-07-01 Tier One 400 Full Formula $433,535 $284,071 66%
    VONHIPPEL, PETER H $23,541 1999-03-01 Tier One 380 $123,511 $282,490 229%
    NEUWELT, EDWARD A $23,443 2014-07-01 Tier One 390 Full Formula $650,047 $281,311 43%
    ALIOTTI, NICK J $23,432 2014-03-01 Tier One 317 Full Formula $539,957 $281,185 52%
    CAMPBELL, GARY L $23,411 2017-01-01 Tier One 406 Full Formula $407,094 $280,935 69%
    MONTANARO, ANTHONY $23,278 2011-06-01 Tier One 335 Full Formula $410,158 $279,333 68%
    KABAT, DAVID $22,976 2008-06-01 Tier One 473 $142,042 $275,708 194%
    MOURSUND, DAVID G $22,921 2002-07-01 Tier One 420 $91,228 $275,047 302%
    PETERSEN, BRYAN D $22,639 2014-01-01 Tier One 258 Full Formula $554,519 $271,670 49%

  14. Steven Reynolds says:

    *their. Mistakes while emotional. It makes me angry because you know what this generation of leaders before us did and we feel violated, like when someone you trust steals from you. When these people are gone we won’t be holding any grand celebration in their honor, no greatest generation for this group. Look at their lifetime of work, what did they leave us for an Oregon? Poverty, crime, mental illness, addiction, all far greater than what was left to them. Can we honestly say under their stewardship, Oregon is better now after their time in leadership? History will be the judge.


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