A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Mayor: No more than $10 as a city fee

Written December 6th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

An Albany city budget meeting last May. A public service fee was not yet an issue.

There’s been a lot of public discussion about possible monthly Albany utility fees to shore up future city budgets, and Mayor Sharon Konopa says she’d like to make her position clear.

“The chatter over the fee is accusing me of wanting a 60 dollar a month fee,” she wrote in an email Friday. “I am used to being accused of all kinds of disagreements over issues, but have you ever heard me support anything over 10 dollars?”

As a matter of fact, no, I haven’t heard the mayor mention any specific amount.

“The 60 dollar amount was from staff stating that amount would be needed to eliminate the levy tax,” the mayor added. “So the net cost to the taxpayer would be less than 60 per month.”

All the talk about an added city fee — either for streets or for general-fund services including police, fire, libraries and parks — seems kind of abstract until the city council makes a move. So far, a majority of four is opposed to levying any fee without putting it to the voters. And judging by public reaction so far, an election would probably kill extra city fees for a good long time.

In November, the council got a detailed staff report on city budget history and trends, including potential city fees and how much money they might raise for what.

For example, a public service fee might be intended to replace the $4.5 million annual local-option tax levy to augment the police and fire budgets and also meet the needs of other departments. That would suppose a revenue target of $13.5 million per year. If the fee was collected uniformly from all utility accounts, residential and others, the fee would need to be $63 a month. If it was based on the size of water meters, the monthly fee would range from $54 for the smallest meters to more than $4,000 for the biggest.

A fee intended to raised $9 million a year to cover the anticipated shortfall while leaving the police and fire local option tax in place — if voters renew it — would be $43 if collected uniformly. It would range from $35 to $2,722 if based on the size of water meters.

A monthly service fee intended to raise $8 million would entail fees of $37 for every meter, or $32 to $2,420 based on meter size.

And finally, a fee to raise $6.2 million a year would cost $29 monthly for all meters, or $24 to $1,876 based on meter size.

These numbers do not include a potential fee to raise money for street repairs. For a single-family residence, a flat street fee intended to raise $3.1 million would be about $15 a month. If the revenue target was $5 million, the fee would be $24.

If based on the number of trips generated by different kinds of utility customers, the residential fee would range from $6 to $10 a month for the lower revenue target, or $10-16 a month for the higher one.

Among many other details in the presentation, there was this: The average Albany city employee costs $115,000 to $150,000 a year in wages and benefits, resulting in $3 million of additional costs per year.  That’s the same amount, $3 million, as the total city library budget.

We’ll hear more about all this later on. But if the mayor is serious about limiting the monthly amount to $10, the whole discussion of new city fees won’t solve much even in the unlikely event that the council majority relents. (hh)

20 responses to “Mayor: No more than $10 as a city fee”

  1. David Thompson says:

    . Hasso you did it again. Why don’t you run for mayor? Ya I know. The same reason I wouldn’t. Keep up the good work sir.

  2. stevin johnson says:

    The Mayor wants to be perfectly clear, can you see what amount she wants below that comment that defines that?

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The secondary question is: How much will they take from you?

    The primary question is: Who decides?

    When it comes to taking money out of your wallet for government “expenses”, the Mayor and some on the Council will do whatever they can to protect that power for themselves.

    Unfettered power makes a mockery of justice and democratic ideals.

  4. Rick Delaney says:

    Well so many residents can’t afford to water their lawns already making this a brown town. More fees and we all quit bathing and make it a smelly town as well.

  5. thomas cordier says:

    Too bad she does not every find a way to reduce costs. In fact I don’t recall Mrs. Mayor ever supporting any cost reductions.

  6. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Personally, I would much rather have folks who are informed make the final decision vs. folks who simply function off emotion and the always accurate stories in the news and internet’s so-called “social media” sites…

    Since there will never be consensus on council for exactly which path to take, possibly a plebiscite would be of help – since it will be up to the council to make the final decision.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Translation: The Mayor & Council knows best, so everyone just shut up. And the most important question to city government is: How much can we get away with?

      When there is no limit on the power to tax/fee, the slide into tyranny is inevitable. On many routine matters the Mayor/Council should decide.

      But when it comes to reaching into people’s wallets for more money, the people should have the final say.

      • Hasso Hering says:

        From some of the comments, it seems like I’m talking or writing to a wall. Contrary to the council wanting to reach into people’s wallets again, the majority of the council does NOT want to impose any a new service fee. They won’t impose it without an election, and if the electorate says no, I’m pretty sure they will cut spending in the budget for the next biennium.

        • Gordon L. Shadle says:

          Your own words on a “majority” of the Council not wanting a fee: “at least not yet.”

          Are you taking bets? I’m willing to wager that a “majority” will eventually go along to get along with the Mayor on this issue. In other words, they will agree with her to impose a fee (pick a number) without voter approval.

          Perhaps you should write about the recent past where the Council has imposed a fee, or increased an existing fee, without asking for voter permission. Heck, this is a Mayor and Council who opposed voter’s having the final say on debt and new URDs.

          You own words betray the “wall” you now perceive.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        “Translation: The Mayor & Council knows best, so everyone just shut up.”
        Did you even look up the definition of “plebiscite?”

        “But when it comes to reaching into people’s wallets for more money, the people should have the final say.”
        While we’re at it, let’s have a vote for every line-item in the budget too. That’s fix everything.

  7. My Real Name John Hartman says:

    Why is it the default that City Council is able to specify financials based on increasing revenues, but never presents realistic outcomes based on decreasing revenues. Why not simply show Albany electorate the REAL consequences of static or decreasing revenues.

    If Albany residents are okay being foisted on their own budgetary petulance, then so be it. When enough residences have burned to the ground due to lack of adequate Fire Department, or enough residents have been burgled because of inadequate Policing, then we will see the true test of Albany character. Hang on. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “When enough residences have burned to the ground due to lack of adequate Fire Department, or enough residents have been burgled because of inadequate Policing, then we will see the true test of Albany character.”

      That’s never going not happen by any stretch of the imagination. Period But it’s nice fear-mongering & dystopian viewpoint of your reality…

  8. Cheryl P says:

    “The average Albany city employee costs $115,000 to $150,000 a year in wages and benefits”

    There is your problem right there. Who in the Sam Hell is making that kind of money that that should be the AVERAGE?!?

    I mean, the average cop salary in this town is only around $55k. Adding in employer taxes of FICA, Medicare, FUTA, SUTA and WBF that takes the City up to around $60.6k. Let’s say the City does a 5% match on a 401(k) and pays the employee portion of medical insurance, now you’re up to $67k. And just to keep it simple and cover W/C and other stuff, let’s take it up to a flat $70k.

    • Jon says:

      It’s not just the “employee portion” of medical insurance; it’s the whole thing. A medical insurance plan for an organization the size of the city is huge. And you’re ignoring a significant amount of overhead that all goes into calculating the cost of an employee. If they have an assigned vehicle, a phone (or multiple), office space, a computer, the cost for one department to pay another department to provide support of some kind (facilities, IT, etc). Salary and direct benefits are only a piece of the picture.

      • Cheryl P says:

        I’m not ignoring anything, we’re talking about “wages and benefits”. NOT cars, NOT cell phones, NOT computers, NOT office space, NOT ‘overhead’; all that is covered elsewhere in the budget.

        Again, what kind of wages and benefits are there that the AVERAGE is between $115-$150k?!? It’s not rocket science…in order to have such a high average, ypu’ve Got to be paying out some really big bucks.

  9. Jim Engel says:

    Say, how’s this for an idea? Each month the Mayor & Council would line 1st St, for a week, holding buckets for the passersby/drivers to fill with “spare change”. Like the fireman’s effort of “fill the boot” for charity! Maybe move locations for a more even coverage of our town. I’d put in my two-bits worth. I’d rather have me dig into my front pocket than have “them” dig into my back pocket!!

  10. hj.anony1 says:

    Only 10 bucks…a month. This is akin to the fantasy of having one million people give me only $1. That equates to me being a millionaire. Under the table of course.

    Please kick this can down our Albany pothole marked and sunken man-hole cover roads.

    I’ll wait on my million people to come through. One at a time.

  11. Anon says:

    Could you please tell me where you got the 9 million a year as any kind of number that the city is short? First time I’ve heard that figure. What had been represented to this point is that they could be short 11 million for a two year budget, and that is a worst case scenario. Every household in town could create a substantial worst case scenario budget deficit. I’m waiting for the most likely budget deficit number. My budget scenario is that the most likely budget projection where any shortage could be covered by eliminating CARA.

  12. centrist says:

    So many fingers pointed from the vacuum into the void.
    The biggest issue here is likely citizen ignorance, compounded by citizens “suffering” in silence.
    Craft a non-adversarial query to your councilors

    • hj.anony1 says:

      Is that like “MAKE THINGS BETTER”?

      Falls on deaf ears.

      Non-adversarial query to councilors: Make things better. Start with the roads.

      ZOUNDS “it goes on forever”


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