A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany service fee stalls, delayed 2 weeks

Written June 9th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

City Hall in a file shot from last August. Meeting not there but online, the council put off by two weeks its decision on a new city service fee.

It will be another two weeks before the Albany City Council makes the decision whether to impose a new city services fee after the ordinance creating the fee stalled Wednesday night.

Under the city charter, it takes a unanimous council to run an ordinance through the required two readings of the title at the same meeting. Three council members, Matilda Novak, Dick Olsen and Stacey Bartholomew, objected to the second reading Wednesday. This automatically postponed final action until the next regular meeting on June 23.

Olsen said he favored the fee ordinance but wanted the delay to give people more time to discuss it. Novak opposes the fee. Bartholomew had a question about low-income assistance, which the city manager later cleared up.

The fee would be $9 a month per household, less for apartments and more for commercial utility accounts, and would be added to the water bills. It is intended to raise more than $5 million during the 2021-23 budget period, which starts July 1. The added income would allow the city administration to restore several personnel and service cuts in the two-year budget, including the loss of nine jobs in the fire service.

Councilor Marilyn Smith suggested the council might enact the fee this month but set the rate at zero for the next two years.  She didn’t explain what that might accomplish other than letting the budgeted service cuts take effect.

Councilman Ray Kopczynski said he wants the fee enacted the way it has been proposed. He’ll be on vacation later this month but said he’ll try to attend the June 23 meeting virtually.

Also gone that day will be Councilwoman Bessie Johnson, another supporter of the fee, and she too will try to attend electronically.

For most of the past year, all council sessions have been held on the Internet. Starting in July, the council will meet in person at City Hall. The seating has been rearranged to put distance between members. As before, meetings also will continue to be available online.

The June 23 session, though, may be the last one where council members see and hear each other only on their computer screens. (hh)

27 responses to “Albany service fee stalls, delayed 2 weeks”

  1. Bill Kapaun says:

    “The added income would allow the city administration to restore several personnel and service cuts in the two-year budget, including the loss of nine jobs in the fire service.”

    And what dire things will happen if we don’t replace them?
    Why didn’t it already happen?

  2. Abe Cee says:

    If only the budget were based upon the actual projected income…

  3. James Engel says:

    Olsen wants more time to discuss what? Hasn’t this horse been whipped enough! What I’d like to hear is that the City has cut dept. heads wages by say 3% to save a firemen’s/police persons position. I’ll say it again, NO municipality can afford to pay private/industrial level wages to managers w/o raising taxes. You hire on for what taxes can afford & live with it. Other wise go out & pedal your wage demands on the open market place City Manager!

    • Councilor Ray Kopzynski says:

      The City Manager did exactly what you suggest. We hired him. He’s doing a yeoman’s job under very trying times & circumstances.

    • withheld says:

      “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. The highest-paid member of the police force was a sergeant, at $144,825.” https://hh-today.com/albany-lists-city-wages-paid-last-year/

      • ... says:

        The issue with that number that is not displayed is that most of these employees base pay is no where near that. But has gone over 100,000$ due to substantial Overtime from being short staffed and conflagrations which are becoming more frequent on the west coast and worse every year.

  4. thomas earl cordier says:

    Does Albany do it’s own payroll function? Corvallis for years has contracted out payroll at a fraction of payroll costs in Albany. The tactic of using emergency services cuts as a threat to punish taxpayers has been used many times. Budgeting decisions are highly influenced by those who don’t want headcount reductions. Wants should be separated from critical needs. Thanks to those who stopped the train—keep it up

    • Councilor Ray Kopczynski says:

      Out of necessity, the approved budget includes the cuts you say were “threats.”

    • Bob Woods says:

      Hey Tommy, prove your point about payroll cost differences with actual costs and details. And make sure you differentiate costs between various methods and processes and the various different programs and staffing levels between the two cities.. Specific costs please, not your vague statements.

      And, please explain to people about your multiple decades of criticism of costs when you CLEARLY DON”T KNOW the various state laws covering the sources and use of funds and restrictions between using dedicated funds across non-allowable programs, which is ILLEGAL.

      Show us hard information, not just you statements. Albany puts out a comprehensive, award winning budget and financial statements every cycle,

      • thomas earl cordier says:

        Typical crap from this guy. Claims to know what I know. I’ve published in former times the direct accurate costs of payroll per check for both Albany and Corvallis. The answer from Albany –“Our payroll is too complicated to contract out”—no more discussion!
        Yes Ray I do view the loss of fire staff as a threat—approve higher fees or we won’t protect your home from slower response times. All crap

        • Johnny Scot Van Ras says:

          I previously sent this email to Marilyn Smith but have not received a reply.

          To: Albany City Council,

          do you host public town hall meetings?

          my name is Johnny Scot Van Ras and i live at 2823 45th Ct. SE in Albany.

          my wife and i are retired and raising our 2 granddaughters ages 8 and 1.

          in the 2021 mayor’s message, he states “The City has limited resources, and it is vitally important that we exercise good stewardship of those resources to successfully operate and deliver the services necessary to have a healthy and safe city.”

          well, i can assure you that most Albany residents believe they too have limited resources. so, before there can be any talk of increases in taxes / fees, the following must take place:

          1. CARA must die. it drains valuable resources from the community and does not benefit ward 3.

          2. Police and Fire get regular funding and supplemental funding and yet they still face a budget shortfall? Poor management.

          3. Quit blaming PERS. either live with it or terminate it. Poor management.

          4. Minimum 20% Pay cuts for all department heads. Poor management.

          5 albany water and sewer bills continue to escalate.

          water basic charge increased from $19.66 to $20.64 – an increase of 5%

          storm water charge increased from $$8.70 to $9.55 to $10.18 – an increase of 17%

          i ask you to vote against any and all rate increases!


          Johnny Scot Van Ras
          Concerned Albany Resident

  5. Albany YIMBY says:

    5000 new units of housing taking advantage of the empty, or underutilized lots in Albany would allow for millions of dollars of revenue in property taxes without increasing the services to be provided (no new roads or streets, no more streetlights or sewer, using schools and sport facilities that are already built).

    At least 40% of downtown’s space are parking lots that are empty most of the time. Also, buildings that have only one floor when there could be three.

    If we want our budget to be balance we need more revenue money without increasing the city’s footprint or we’ll get into the Ponzi’s scheme of sprawl we’ve been following so far.

    • Sharon Konopa says:

      Albany Yimby……population estimates are usually three persons per dwelling. Your 5000 so called new infill units would increase the population by 15,000. That is 27% of our current population. I agree about infill lessens sprawl and that is what has been taking place the past twenty years is a lot of infill. But more dwellings does not solve the budget problems. Property taxes are not enough to cover the cost of police and fire services. So how do you pay for the existing service levels and then to serve the additional 15,000 people? You can bet those 5,000 dwellings will have kids to also add to the demand of expanding the schools. Who pays for that? Also, the water and sewer lines were sized for the existing density. If you add more levels to all of the buildings will require upgrades to the infrastructure. More growth is not the solution to the budget woes of today.

      • Albany YIMBY says:

        As far as I know, if we increase our population by 25% (and there is housing demand in the Willamette Valley) without increasing our footprint, the property taxes those people would pay would be more than the services they would need.

    • William Ayers says:

      Yimby thinks we can add 5000 new units with no increase in services …? Really?
      5000 units with only 3 people occupancy per unit would be 15,000 more people.
      You think 15,000 people won’t require any requisite increase in services?
      Sorry but I’m due back on my home planet…Hey Yimby, what color is the sky where you live?

      • Albany YIMBY says:

        Yes we can. Albany has the footprint of cities in Germany or France that have 300,000 people and we can’t house 10000 or 15000 more?

      • Albany YIMBY says:

        By the way, the sky is kind of gray today here Albany. I may be a dreamer, but I still try to offer a vision of a future for Albany. What’s your vision for a sustainable Albany in the long run?

        And this is a comparison in size between Albany and Freiburg, one of the most beautiful cities in Germany, with 230,000 inhabitants, roughly 4 times more people than Albany in the same footprint.



        What city do you think has a better quality of life, more local businesses, and a better downtown?
        In what city do you think kids can walk or cycle to school themselves?

        • Abe Cee says:

          I suspect the cities have vastly different methods in which they are designed. Freiburg also has been larger than Albany for over 120 years so they’ve had some time to adjust to 4 times the number of people. Also, they are not really a “bedroom” community the way Albany is and likely will continue to be (which is fine, as that’s why many of us are living in Albany and not Portland/Salem/Eugene.)

          • Albany YIMBY says:

            You’re right, but I like to point out these examples to show how something can be done to make Albany a better place to live. At some point after WWII American cities decided to gamble everything on the automobile and we’re paying the price now with a sea of asphalt ugliness. And the worst part is that it is not only ugly but also expensive as we need now to upkeep more miles or roads, sewer, streets, traffic lights, lanes, etc per inhabitant than any other place of the world.

        • William Ayers says:

          In Freiburg all stores and businesses – everything closes at 8pm weekdays and 4pm on Saturday and everything is totally shut down on Sunday. I got my ass chewed by the doorman at Siemens in Erlangen for working past 4pm one afternoon as he couldn’t lock up until I left. Siemens has beer dispensers on site. That is just two examples of how their culture is completely different from ours. Once again Yimby dreamworld strikes.

          • Albany YIMBY says:

            Dear William, it is super important that you can go to the Dollar Tree a Sunday afternoon to have a wonderful quality of life…

  6. Rich Kellum says:

    So we have a Councilor who thinks that this could be passed now and not used for 2 years… that is curious, either the city found money somewhere so we do not need it now, or she is willing to lay people off for a couple of years…….
    How about a third scenario, if it is passed now, not many folks will gripe because it doesn’t hurt yet.. and in 2 years when they gripe, they can be told ” this was passed years ago” In my opinion, this is a tax, not a fee, a fee is money raised for a specific expense, a tax is money raised to be used for anything desired………. question, what is it to be used on, something specific or just anything? Taxes have to be approved by the voter……… if 2 years is ok then there is no reason to keep it from the Voter… Unless of course Councilors do not trust the Voter… that is a lot bigger problem.

    • William Ayers says:

      Good points.

    • Steven Reynolds says:

      Interesting position, I’m not familiar with how this tax would pass in an election. I know how bonds and levies pass and the controversy with removal of the double majority and how much easier it is to pass a property tax increase. Is a regular tax treated the same? Is it just who turns in a vote no matter matter how many are turned in and the tax passes if a majority of those votes are yes? I’ll have to look that up.

      I’m going to say it again, we have to get some discretionary income back into the hands of the residents, continuing to add line items to a compulsory bill and going down the road of a death by a thousand cuts is just unsustainable. I call for the same type of committee that was formed for the Police and Fire bond, we need some third party eyes like yourself, Sen. Morse, Tom Cordeir, Floyd Collins, Buzz Wheeler, Mike Martin, Ron Loney, Dave Burright. A need to examine A) the need for the Utility Fee and what it represents as far as adding yet another line item of taxation but also B) what the Albany economy looks like after the pandemic. It’s not that the community doesn’t want to pay for city services it’s more a question, can we pay for city services or when does the tax burden cause more damage than the city service it is suppose to solve? I also think the Chamber needs to endorse this instead of being in a position of fighting it, those that are the engine of the economy need to be comfortable with the direction this is going.


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