HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany fee decision set for next month

Written February 22nd, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The council listens to City Manager Peter Troedsson, center, during Monday’s city services fee discussion.

If you pay Albany water and sewer bills, you may prepare yourself to start paying an additional monthly fee to support the functions and services of the municipal government.

For a couple of years, the city staff and council have been talking about adopting a utility or city services fee, as many other Oregon cities already have. The city says a fee is needed because expenses keep rising faster than existing revenue including property taxes.

At a work session Monday, councilors learned they’ll be asked to decide on such a fee when they meet on March 24.

Before this year, a majority of four members of the council said they would not impose the fee without voter approval. But three of the four are no longer on the council. The fourth, Alex Johnson II, is now mayor and no longer has a vote unless there’s a tie.

The only present councilor who said, during last year’s campaign, that the voters should decide on the fee issue is Matilda Novak.

Two others who won election last November, Ray Kopczynski and Marilyn Smith, said they would have the council decide. Because they did not insist in earlier discussions on getting the voters involved, I expect Councilors Dick Olsen and Bessie Johnson to join them.

As for newly appointed Stacey Bartholomew, she has said nothing about the fee idea.

The amount of the added monthly fee and other details have yet to be worked out. But by the end of next month, Albany ratepayers will likely know how much more they will be expected to pay. (hh)


Posted in: Commentary, News



39 responses to “Albany fee decision set for next month”

  1. Curious Citizen says:

    A soft drink tax was mentioned by the new mayor before. Wonder what happened to that idea? Please go on a budget like the rest of us , dear city.

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    With this group on the city council, it’s a done deal. It’s just a matter of how much.

    What’s the odds they’ll also implement their SALES TAX aka Franchise Fee on top of it?

  3. Jim Thomas says:

    Does it ever occur to them to cut expenses? You know, like the rest of us would have to do.

  4. thomas earl cordier says:

    Never discuss reducing expenses. I’ll not attack anyone either just waste of thought.
    It is just so sad that elected officials don’t protect those who elected them while they slide right in to the quick-to-tax-more slot.

  5. Suzanne Driver says:

    We feel that it only be fair to let the people of our city have a vote on the increase of this fee. It now is at a rate of just under one hundred dollars a month with water, sewer and storm drain fees. Many retirees, people in a fixed income have been struggling to stay afloat this past year and this puts undue stress on households. Not to say that there are plenty just able to make their rents or house payments. Rents continue to increase and enough people are still trying to catch up before June or July so they don’t face evictions. This could add more homeless families to the many that we already have.
    Can we not have a say in this, and vote?
    I have great Hope’s that are council will think this thru before just adding additional costs for the people of our city.

  6. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    How much to pay for “essential services” works best when it is ground up rather than top down.

    This is achieved by obtaining voter approval.

    But Albany’s city council has long feared, instead of valued, voter approval. It is easier to impose than to convince.

    Voters approved the city’s maximum tax rate ($7.8329 per thousand taxable value).

    Voters should approve what is in effect an increase to that rate.

  7. Craig says:

    Worldwide pandemic, record number of unemployment, families struggling…. Look at the most recent budget, property taxes are up 105%! Hot damn, I wish I got 105% improvement in revenue. Delinquencies are up 180%

    Albany City Council, “Let’s raise taxes!”

    Remember every name that votes on this, remember it well. Then repeat that vile name under your breath till Election Day. To bad the city doesn’t have an emergency or rainy day fund like most families and businesses try to maintain.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Where have property taxes risen 105 percent?

      • B Williams says:

        During 2019-2020 my property taxes went from $469 to $782 which is an increase of $313 ! May not be 105% but it’s a chunk. I feel multiple plans should be explored and allow the people to vote. Somehow the people’s voice is becoming a thing of the past.

        • thomas earl cordier says:

          Please look carefully at the prop, tax detail; not just the total. Bond measures for school facilities and public safety fire/police account for a large chunk

          • Joyce Bryan says:

            The police and fire bond and then the school bond is what raised my taxes so high I had to sell my house! For retired people now living in rentals the raise on water is terrible!

  8. Trisha Hyde says:

    Please City Council read Suzanne Driver’s response above. You are taxing us out of our homes with all the property tax increases and now this. Please let us vote on it. It is our pocketbook you are getting into.

  9. Rdjourney says:

    This is a voting matter since it affects so many in the population. City council should prepare three budget proposals and have a town hall meeting that is publicly advertised to help choose which will go up for a vote.

  10. Therese Waterhous says:

    So many avenues of voter voice have been closed , including what HB 1573 did to our voice in matters of city annexations. We lost that. Make no mistake, this tax is to make up for the System Development Fee reduction for developers. That is coming up too, and so the city needs money to make up for that not being assessed to developers. We get to pay for decreased livability in our city while developers get to make more money.

  11. Steven Reynolds says:

    After watching the meeting last night, there’s not much to comment on. Everyone is holding their cards very close. The consultants they hired, to come up with a plan to raise taxes, didn’t release any information other than some boiler plate. The city manager gave a speech about how they can’t run a city of 50k on the $347 million dollars they already receive, didn’t use those words but that’s the gist. Yea, this could be very ugly for residents especially low income or those looking for affordable housing but we really need to wait and see what the numbers look like and the final proposal.

    There’s a lot more to be said about this topic, but the bottom line is there needs to be more discretionary income put back into the hands of residents if this community is going to function. At some point you have to say $347 million from the community is enough, we can’t afford you.

  12. Reagan knopp says:

    I oppose the fee because I do not feel it is appropriate to raise costs for poor and working families in Albany in the middle of a pandemic.

  13. Albany YIMBY says:

    Residential infills add taxes via property tax while they don’t add on expenses as they don’t need new roads to maintain or utilities to take care of.

    If we want Albany’s budget to be balanced in the long run we need to avoid more horizontal low-density growth and focus on utilizing urban lots that are already available in the city, including parking lots.

  14. Barbara Dugger says:

    Is there some mechanism to recall members of Albany’s city council? The “good ole’ boys AND girls” need to be provided a wake up call.

    If people fall into homelessness, they will not be able to pay taxes or be contributing members of society. If people move out of Albany, the city loses much more than the individuals and money they generate to fund the city. City of Albany residents NEED to be given the opportunity to vote on measures such as this. There are other towns to live in quite close by, think on that one.

  15. Birdieken says:

    We need blue collar salaries for a blue collar town. It you want more tax money increase the jobs in the city. 100 bucks for water a month, it’s not the cost of the water. These are fees only for the people not paying attention.

  16. hj.anony1 says:

    March 24th you say?!

    Date circled in red on the calendar.

  17. Mike quinn says:

    The city has saved a lot of money during the pandemic. Not having your doors opened . And yes rents will keep going up every time a bond is voted in or a fee raised. I literally thought we had some new blood coming into our system but tax increases and tiny houses proposed by one councilor in a drug infested park in Albany. Looks like we’re back to the program of the month where we test out new taxing proposals. How about rolling back city managers and directors pay to 2016 levels and you’ll see your savings

  18. HLM says:

    Increasing taxes to prop up pension agreements that were promised by politicians who
    are never around to account for the votes they made when the unrealistic amounts they
    approved can’t be met is unconscionable.You see the results in local governments
    nationwide in underfunded government employee pensions.

  19. Sharon Konopa says:

    Okay folks I have some thoughts for everyone to ponder on here! It will ruffle some feathers with many folks, but there is another side to this issue!
    It is easy to just state “no fee”, “make cuts”, “live within your means”, “it’s a pandemic”, etc.
    I do hope you express the same opinions when your electricity, natural gas, cell phone, cable and other utilities increase? (They also have the same labor costs). It is always an easy avenue to voice your opinion to your most accessible governing body, as your own city! Do you do the same for the state and federal government? My point, local government is always held back on needed funding because they are the easy venue to express frustrations over the rising cost of living.

    Now I have been through 25 years of our city budgets. Your city government did as you demanded and that was to cut. There have been years of cuts and mostly since the Great Recession. Our service levels never came back to the level they were before 2008 by per capita. Yet we have grown in population and keep on growing. It costs all of us money to serve those new out of state who have been moving in!

    Your city portion of your property taxes do not even fully fund police and fire services, so keep that in the back of your mind! It takes other revenue sources, like user fees, to fund all city programs. You state you pay enough in taxes, yet your city taxes do not even pay for other general fund services. (You can argue all you want about CARA, but that ship has sailed)

    Also, adding up my city portion of my property taxes, my water, wastewater, storm water, franchise fees and gas tax I pay monthly is less than my Verizon bill, that does not even include my Comcast bill. Look at your tax bill and utilities, you are welcome to add it up! (I know, some property owners have a higher valued house than I do.) But my point is, do you tell Verizon or Comcast to not raise your rate and cut services? Did you get rid of that cell phone then? Also, city services provide reliable water and wastewater for my house, a network of streets to drive around on, police and fire protection, medics, parks and recreation, pools, libraries, and more—-yet the same costs for all these services than my Verizon bill every month! So please be fair here, as holding back revenues for your city services impacts our own daily household needs and quality of life.

    How about adding up your state and federal taxes each month, I bet you that is way more than a Verizon bill! Do you tell your state and federal government leaders to cut, cut, cut? If not, is that fair to our city?

    The past several years we have cut and cut on staffing. The city council has kicked this can down the road for years in the need for new revenues. The recent council made the choice to cut, cut again and not seek a utility fee to bring in more revenues. That brings us to today!

    You have a choice: Either continue to see more cuts to police, fire, libraries, parks, general fund services or support a utility fee to lessen the reductions on your daily services to your home.

    The upcoming proposed budget includes more reductions in our police department. This upsets me! If these cuts are made our staffing levels will be where we were in 1996. Folks think about it, 1996! Our population was around a 36,000. We are almost 55,000 now and believe me we have way more challenging issues for our police today, than 25 years ago. We only had a handful of homeless folks and criminals back then to deal with.

    Now what is one major reason city revenues are not keeping up with growth. New development and population have put us more in a hole. More population means more housing and people to serve, yet their increased property taxes do not keep up with the infrastructure and service demands. If you want more growth, then we all get stuck paying the costs for growth, as this is what has taken place for decades.

    So, you can voice your opinion to your local government to have growth pay for itself, to close the gap of your past and current subsidizing of every new house to be built. Make growth pay the full cost to build—from infrastructure, planning to building and expanding the schools. It will not immediately solve the budget deficit the City is faced with today, overtime it will help. Now for me, that is worth a rant to my local government.

    But first, I want a safe city to live in and a utility fee will help with our service levels for a police officer to catch a snoopy thief trying to get into my car. I want high quality medics to respond if I have another medical emergency. I want library books and activities, parks, and playgrounds for my grandsons to enjoy.

    As I have said many times, if you do not like a program or decision over a city issue, then please provide a viable alternative solution! Instead of just cut, so how much then is your city services worth for you? Less or more than your monthly cell phone or cable?

    No easy answer here, but just some thoughts to consider! Thank you for reading, Folks!

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      929 words and not one addresses the big issue: who decides?

      Should voters be the final voice on what is effectively an increase to the city’s property tax rate?

      Send your 929 words to the people after this issue is put on the ballot. Make your case to the voter.

      But let them decide.

      • Albany YIMBY says:

        People decided in the elections when they choose their mayor and council. If we had to vote every single thing we wouldn’t need representatives, and we’b be led by uninformed or ill-intentioned demagogues taking advantage of people’s fears and lack of long-term vision.

    • Therese Waterhous says:

      Hi Sharon, You make some excellent points and you deserve respect because you have had the experience to know. Your points again make me think voters also should have a say in how much a city grows, because growth is costly. I remain concerned that fees might be raised for residents but the fees for developers will be reduced. Is that a possibility?

  20. Suebee says:

    Sharon… so many words with so many excuses!

    I’m a single retired person living alone…and my water bill climbs every month…over $130 I do not water my yard in summer months… my usage stays pretty much the same… I read the fine print and see so much city fees attached it is infuriating!

    Enough of the city needing more from us to support them! I have to make decisions on my spending to meet my personal budget… so don’t threaten with city services.

    I agree these “added” fees/taxes need to be voted on, not just a town council waving a broad brush of approval that we end up being responsible for…

    Time to retire Sharon…and stay out of politics that you were voted out of.

  21. Monica Hellweg says:

    My question is where is all that extra property taxes the city is getting from all the new homes built? Yes, I understand that they add to the demand for services, but I find that amazing the amount of new homes that have gone up, that the city isn’t doing better with revenue and I don’t see increase positions or programs to justify that they are not in the black. I am not an economist of finances, but just want some clarity in seeing the numbers. I would like to see the break down of the budget and where exactly it is not filling the voids. And a comparison from previous years.

    The water bill has already gone up in per unit price and base price, I believe, just last month. I am struggling more than I ever have. Another question: Why doesn’t this utility have an assistance program for low income, like energy assistance? We need help, not more taken away from us. I believe the city revenue has to have gone up incredibly just from all the new households.

    Given labor is the costliest, may the city management should take a look at their own salaries and agree to help out the community by taking at least a 10% cut, while we are going through these difficult times. A lot of ppl don6t have jobs, or Full time, at least. Everyone needs to do their part. Then perhaps,the city might have the community more on their side.

    Just my thoughts…

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      Hi Monica,

      You addressed the main problem of hoping that growth will pay for city services. It’s the suburban growth ponzi scheme.

      https://www.strongtowns.org/the-growth-ponzi-scheme

      In short, suburban growth costs more of what it provides in property taxes and the only way to pay for it, you guessed it, is with more growth, ad infinitum.

      Our most notable examples are Oak Grove, Timber Ridge and Meadow Ridge brand new schools that were built in developing areas in Albany, while the schools in the city such as Waverly or Sunrise had to spend their budget replacing asbestos and lead pipes.

      Residential infills in town would have led to improvements or expansions in existing schools, saving millions. Roads, sewer, street lights, all cost money. If you have more people living in an area were streets and sewers already exists you’re collecting more taxes without having to provide new infrastructure of minimally upgrading.

  22. Deborah Lynne says:

    Is there a publicly available copy of the city budget? Are there non-essential services that could be reduced? I don’t doubt it exactly but I find it hard to believe that the new subdivisions don’t “pay their way” for city services. Since property taxes are paid to the county, are all the property taxes (not part of a bond measure) apportioned back to the city? And how was this city “ecosystem” sustainable for decades but now we can’t afford fire and police? What are we spending it on?

    • Steven Reynolds says:

      PERS… politicians (long since gone) made a bunch of promises back in the 60’s and 70’s in order to save on wages with guaranteed returns that are not possible today with the safe investments required so the local budgets have to make up the difference. So now you have above market wages and the cost of those past promises.

      City has borrowed and levied about as much as they can without going over the constitutional limits so they need a new way of making up the difference, this is it.

      The only choices you have…

      1) Go to the private sector for services
      2) Rely on more technology instead of human capital
      3) Reduce service levels
      4) Rely on Salem for service like code change requirements instead of trying to change them locally, more centralized planning.

      It’s not just the city, it’s also the county, and GAPS. They have become a major line item expense in a resident’s budget. It’s a bad situation all around but the reality of the market is rearing its ugly head.

    • Sharon Konopa says:

      Yes, city budget is posted on the web site. You can even watch past budget meetings online. The upcoming budget will be on video also. You are welcome to add up the numbers and compare property tax revenues to police and fire expenses. Housing growth does not pay for itself. That is another subject for another day.
      This is not a new budget problem. This has been coming for many years and has been in the news over and over. We have reduced services, cut and more cuts will greatly impact our community. It is to the point the only solution to prevent more cuts is new revenues and that is what grabs people’s attention and where we are at today.
      Regarding whether this fee should go to the voters. No, this is a legislative decision. The city has police, fire, parks, library, water, sewer, storm, planning fees and more. If a fee had to go to the voters every time is unrealistic. These decisions are to be made by the governing body that the voters elected. I would suggest you voice your opinion with the current city council as the majority probably will not see Hasso’s blog.

      • Censored Pragmatist says:

        Members of council do occasionally read this blog, as evidenced above, but they also hopefully know better than to be so easily swayed by the same ten, perpetually unhappy, raving trolls that inhabit the comments section. Some of these trolls don’t even live in Albany! We have elected representatives for a reason.

        • Steven Reynolds says:

          Just curious, do you have a position on the issue? Do you think maybe certain candidates didn’t completely disclose their positions on certain issues before they were elected?

          Just an FYI, I think HH is getting around 10,000 views a month on this blog plus he’s ported over to Albany Happenings which has 32K subscribers, a vast majority of the city. You should go read the comments over there.

  23. Bill Higby says:

    The storm water charge is forecast to increase 17% to $10.18 in March according to the City web site, it will be 230% of the 2017 rate by March 2024 City Water already went up 5% for both base and usage January 1, 2021, The base sewer rate went up 3.5% in July 2020. These were all actions by the City Council. The resolutions raising the rates state that the rate structure “should be designed to generate revenues adequate to properly operate and maintain the water system….fund capital projects and meet debt service requirements.” I fail to see the reason for an additional fee when the council already has the ability to set rates.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      This “fee” doesn’t appear to have much, if anything, to do with operating and maintaining the water system.

      Your water/sewer bill is simply a means to impose what Hasso mentions – a city services “fee” to support the functions and services of municipal government.

      That sounds pretty broad.

      Voters should have the final say on this tax.

  24. Rich Kellum says:

    The only question is: Who does the City Council work for???? If the Council thinks that they work for the people of Albany, there must be a vote. If the Council thinks that they are smarter than everyone else, then they will make the decision on their own….. it is just that simple.

 

 
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