Council: Keep police & fire tax rate the same – Hasso Hering

HASSO HERING

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Council: Keep police & fire tax rate the same

Written January 23rd, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Someone heads for the secure, gated parking lot behind the Albany police headquarters Thursday.

The Albany City Council is playing it safe –if that’s possible in elections — when it comes to the renewal of a longstanding extra property tax to support the police and fire departments.

On Wednesday the council unanimously voted to keep the tax rate the same when asking voters to renew the “fire, ambulance, and police local option tax” in the primary on May 19, 2020.

The rate has been $1.15 per thousand dollars of assessed value. The city staff had recommended a 10-cent boost, but City Manager Peter Troedsson acknowledged in a memo: “The safest path forward is to leave the rate untouched.”

The state constitution allows voters to approve “local option” levies in addition to the fixed tax rates for up to five years. Albany voters first did so in November 2002 to augment the budgets of the fire and police departments, starting with 95 cents per thousand and going up to $1.15 per thousand in 2012.

The current tax, which amounts to about $4 million a year, is authorized through budget year 2020-21. The council has always put the levy up for renewal a year before it expires so that, if it’s ever rejected, there is time to try again.

There was no council debate about this on Wednesday night. Rich Kellum said he preferred going with the same rate until certain other spending issues are settled. Bessie Johnson made a motion to that effect, and the vote was 6-0 in favor. (hh)


Posted in: Commentary, News

18 responses to “Council: Keep police & fire tax rate the same”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    In 2013 the council decided to stop CARA from skimming money from voter approved bonds and the safety levy. The council did the right thing for the wrong reason.

    The council wasn’t concerned about the propriety of siphoning money away from voter approved purposes. They simply didn’t want CARA to be reason for voters to vote no on local measures. And they knew voters were not happy with CARA’s skimming.

    But the council also knew that the other taxing districts CARA was skimming from relied on a fixed rate for revenue. No periodic vote needed to keep that money flowing.

    So the council chose to keep skimming from the other taxing districts, even though the money was never intended for urban renewal. And they continue the practice today.

    Isn’t this unethical?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      No, it is not unethical. It’s a longstanding, legal and transparent program to improve the community and benefit the residents and taxpayers of tax-imposing entities in the long run. Griping about this program with the same old arguments doesn’t doesn’t change anything and doesn’t shed any light. If anyone wants to abolish the Albany urban renewal program, let him run for city council and then organize a council majority to end it. (hh)

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        It is dangerous to assume that just because a government action is legal, longstanding, and transparent, it is therefore ethical. I can cite numerous legal, longstanding and transparent actions of government that were absolute moral travesties.

        There is a distinction.

        And a council that takes money from another taxing district without their permission and spends the money for a purpose the voters never approved falls clearly into the category of unethical behavior. Some call it legal theft.

        You wouldn’t steal from your neighbor over a long period of time just because the city council declared it will improve the community at some time in the future, would you?

      • Cap says:

        So, according to the laws of Hasso, if something is unfair and unjust you get to state so once, and then you are, after that, to be accepting of the unfairness, and shut up!

        Is that attached onto the Second Amendment of the Constitution that according to Trump says he can do anything he wants? And, whether it is lawful or just doesn’t matter?

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    “…..but City Manager Peter Troedsson acknowledged in a memo: “The safest path forward is to leave the rate untouched.”

    Safest for who?
    50,000 citizens or 7 people sitting in the “special chairs”?

    • Bill says:

      Safest for the 7…….Silly rabbit!

      • Hasso Hering says:

        No, safest for the people of Albany. A mere continuation of the same tax rate is likely to encourage passage of the measure, and passage of the measure prevents sharp cutbacks in the fire and police departments. (hh)

        • Gordon L. Shadle says:

          You assume that if the levy fails that sharp cutbacks must happen in the fire and police departments.

          Why couldn’t the cutbacks be made in other areas?

          Isn’t public safety the MOST essential service the city provides?

          Again, this issue boils down to right and wrong. You shouldn’t make apologies for a city government that can’t seem to prioritize appropriately.

  3. Bill says:

    “The council has always put the levy up for renewal a year before it expires so that, if it’s ever rejected, there is time to try again”
    I love this! …Just keep asking until you get the answer you want.(And don’t take “no” for an answer)
    Does this mean that a year later they can change their minds and decide to ask to raise it anyway?

  4. Kim Sass says:

    “And a council that takes money from another taxing district without their permission and spends the money for a purpose the voters never approved falls clearly into the category of unethical behavior. Some call it legal theft.” Not quite accurate.

    When CARA was formed, each taxing district was approached — the county, GAPS, LBCC. Each debated and ultimately approved the formation of Albany’s urban renewal plans. Their reason was simple: improving the area would, in time, raise the value and ultimately the taxes for all entities in the district.

    While it is true that voters were not approached specifically for the formation of CARA, each councilor was duly elected. And the councilors, in turn, tapped representatives as an advisory board to further represent the wards and as a touch point for the public. I was one of those reps during the first six years of CARA’s existence, selected by Dick Olsen.

    In time you will see the benefit of focusing on one area of our community. Albany has been investing in its core since the 1850s. It is still important to maintain our initial investment to the benefit of all in the district.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      “….ultimately approved the formation of Albany’s urban renewal plans.”

      You are mistaken.

      The only approval required in ORS 457.089 was by the city council. The city only had to “consult” with the taxing districts.

      The city never asked for, or received, permission or approval from the taxing districts for the CARA Plan and its TIF skimming scheme.

      And asserting the “but for” argument that absent the creation of CARA development would not have happened is a specious claim.

      This type of argument can never be measured or documented in an objective way. This type of thinking merely enabled pet projects and subsidies to local cronies.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        “The city never asked for, or received, permission or approval from the taxing districts…”

        There was never any formal opposition (verbal or otherwise) from any of the taxing districts.

        “This type of argument [“but for”] can never be measured or documented in an objective way.”

        As is your assertion…

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Well said Kim!

  5. Anon says:

    Well said but incorrect. Linn County objected.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      This is where some documentary evidence would be helpful, if only to set the record straight. My own memory is hazy. I remember that the county commissioners did not enthusiastic about the formation of the Albany urban renewal district, but I can’t remember if they actually voted on the issue and then appeared before the council, in person or via a letter, and raised a formal objection. If anybody can come up with minutes from a meeting, or a news clipping, let’s have it. (hh)

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        In virtually every life context, common sense informs us that….

        An unequivocal YES is the only word that validates approval.

        Silence, or lack of “formal” opposition/objection, does not mean approval.

        Only in the world of CARA does lack of “formal” opposition/objection get twisted into direct or implied consent.

 

 
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