A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany council heading toward added fee

Written April 26th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The Albany council and city manager during Monday’s work session, when a new utility fee was again discussed..

Staff work continues on a new Albany utility fee to support city services. And while no decision has been made to collect such a fee, no one on the council has objected in any of the meetings where it was discussed.

The same thing — no one saying stop — happened at Monday’s work session as the council got a report on the progress of planning for this monthly addition to the city’s water bills.

In March the council approved a method for applying the fee. On May 10, it is scheduled to pick a rate, which likely will be $9 a month for single-family residential households, $7.20 per unit for apartment houses, and $22.50 for most commercial and industrial customers.

At that level the fee would raise an estimated $2.8 million a year, roughly what the city would need to cover an anticipated shortfall of $5 million during the two-year budget period of 2021-23, which starts in July.

City Manager Peter Troedsson told the council the budget proposal is being built without revenue from the utility fee, with cuts in a number of departments. If the council imposes the fee, the cuts presumably could be restored.

The fee is being proposed as a way to address what Troedsson calls a chronic long-term imbalance between income and expense.  The state constitution limits property tax hikes on individual properties to 3 percent a year, while the city’s expenses rise 5-7 per cent.

The council got figures for monthly fees added to utilities in seven other cities, ranging from $4.50 in Sandy to $15 in Gresham. Corvallis charges $13.54 a month.

As the city manager has said more than once, no decision to collect the fee in Albany has been made. But if the council was against it, it would have said so. (hh)

20 responses to “Albany council heading toward added fee”

  1. Barbara Branson says:

    I am a one person household. I consistently use 2 units per month . My bill went from $73 to $85 last month for the exact same usage. Tack another $10 on for this fee and that’s $95 a month. I am on a fixed income.The cola raise last year was about $13.

    • Steve Reynolds says:

      Listening to the meeting last night. The real issue is the city trying to play so many increase cards at the same time, their presentations are falling on top of each other. The largest comparison made last night was showing the Corvallis utility fee, which was a little over $13, against the proposed Albany fee, around $10, the issue is they failed to add in the fact that Albany is paying $133 on average for a water bill where as Corvallis is paying $91 as shown on their last presentation a couple weeks ago, I would say we would be glad to pay the additional $10 if they lowered our rates to those of Corvallis.

      We can’t really say a whole lot until we look a the budget that’s being proposed then we can start dissecting, normally I would say let the city do the work but when results we’re receiving are less than satisfactory and staff leadership starts to leave for other municipalities, all kinds of red flags start going up, same flags as when corporate leadership start leaving a company. It pays to ask questions and listening to the meetings at the point when leadership starts to send out negative reports about ability to perform.

      Another interesting piece was the proposed removal of the enhanced enforcement zones downtown and the support it is receiving from the new Council, apparently it sends the wrong message that everyone is not welcomed downtown regardless of behavior. It will be interesting to see why the police department has not enforced the law downtown using the ordinance, it was referenced as only being used once.

  2. Jake (JJ) Johnny Johan Hartman says:

    Could someone inside the City government explain – in clear language – what it really would mean to residents were the City to live within the 3% annual property tax hike limit? All we ever hear are vague descriptions of imminent peril if the City is not allowed to collect more than 3%.

    Instead of treating Albany residents like simpletons, try governing within the 3% limitation. Let City services chips fall where they may. Let the people of Albany decide if they can live with less, if indeed less is what happens. Then, if the residents decide that the 3% limit is too dear a price and the drop-off in City services is to steep, at that point the people could vote to impose additional fees.

    Let reality dictate. Live within the 3% property tax limitation for a few budgetary cycles and see where the chips fall. It might be ugly, or….who knows….perhaps there are ways to manage effectively.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Well said.

      But lets be real. The city council has never, and will never, govern this way. That is why they disguise taxes as fees. Fees can be imposed without permission. Taxes can’t.

      Like was done with new debt and urban renewal plans, an initiative needs to be circulated to add language to the city charter that says – no new “fees” without voter approval.

      • Henry says:

        All they want to do is line their pockets with these so-called fees. There should be an investigation into the councils financial status. The last city council that tried this was sentenced to jail, and paying the citizens back what they had taken from them. That happened years ago in a town in southern California.

        • Hasso Hering says:

          The comparison to the scandal in Bell, Calif., is completely off base. Look it up online, and if you know anything at all about Albany and its city government, you will see how wrong it is to bring it up.

  3. Mike quinn says:

    Can we wait until we have a public hearing in person because there is a lot of information that needs to get into public eye over the collection of fees that will show this utility fee is not needed and certain staff knows . And just because some cities in the league of cities are doing this we should wait to explore if this is the right way to go. There are many questions to be answered by city officials before the do this. Is the an attorney out there that would put an injunction to stop this encase the city forces this before a public hearing

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Public hearings are useful. But more than putting this into the public eye, you need to change the power equation. Launch a petition to change the city charter.

      Citizens Right to Vote – Charges and Fees Imposed on Residential Properties

      “After January 1, 2022, any ordinance, resolution or order approved by a majority of the City Council that creates or increases any charge or fee that will be imposed on residential properties occupied by owners and/or occupants within the City of Albany boundaries, shall not be effective unless ratified by a majority vote of the City’s qualified electors.”

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    When city staff snookers the council into believing a water fee is a water fee regardless of location, the council’s BS meter should ding at full volume.

    The motivations for imposing a “city services” fee is unique to each government that wants more money. There is not a standard water fee that is comparable across Oregon.

    The only thing standard is Albany government’s insatiable appetite to take more of your money without your permission. Some call this theft. Maybe. Everyone should call it immoral.

  5. Tyler says:

    My income did not increase 5-7% this last year, so what makes the council think we can pay for their 5-7% expense increases. It sounds like they need to budget better like we all have to.

  6. Jeff Senders says:

    Hasso, have you been provided with an itemized list of current and future estimated expenditures in order to pin down specific areas of “shortfall” and to what degree?

  7. Sue Driver says:

    I think it is time for everyone to take a big breath, step back, put on hold all “Fees”, actual taxation, and rethink everything. Some may not get that big raise, others may need to reduce hours. Let’s get together and make this something that all of Albany can live with. We have a large number of retirees and young families that are having hard times.
    We want a liveable community for all.

  8. Pat Schlecht says:

    We spent 30 years in Arizona desert and never paid water/sewer fees approaching what I am charged here. Electricity is certainly cheaper but hard to wrap my head around monthly bill from city.

  9. Bob kahn says:

    These fees will be endless until they fix the major culprit, PERS, which makes the cost of city operations astronomical. I have decided to leave Albany due to being on fixed income and no sign of government willing to stand up to the elephant in the room.

  10. Reagan Knopp says:

    Imposing a $100+ a year utility tax on working families in the middle of a pandemic is the textbook definition of bad public policy. On Friday, many businesses in Albany will be forced once again to close indoor services, which will result in many lost hours and even layoffs for working people in Albany. The city council needs to stand up for Albany’s working families and they can start by saying no to the utility tax.

  11. Marilyn Smith, Councilor, Ward 3 says:

    The proposed City of Albany budget for biennium 2021-23 is online at https://cityofalbany.net/finance. You will find answers to most of the questions you have asked on this blog in that document. The first meeting of the city budget committee to review this budget is Tuesday, May 4 at 6 p.m. Additional meetings are scheduled on May 6 and May 11.

    • Ray Kopczynski, Councilor Ward 2 says:

      In addition, here’s the link to the information we have about the proposed utility fee:

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Still doesn’t answer the question, “Why is the council imposing this fee and not letting voters have the final say?”

        This is a tax disguised as fee. In effect, it is an increase to the voter approved property tax rate. Why the deception?

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      You linked people to a 592 page document of bureaucratic mumbo jumbo and layers upon layers of numbers.

      You are an elected councilor and presumably an expert in budgetary matters.

      Why can’t you answer their questions directly with specific page references?

  12. TOPTBOSS says:

    Hello Rent increases to the max allowable. Larger Apartment Complexes, $10K+ Cost per year. What a shame!


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