A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

No surprise: Council picks $9 as base fee, or tax

Written May 12th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

Albany City Hall last summer. The city will start collecting a monthly tax to support city services, probably in July.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the Albany City Council has settled on $9 as the monthly tax it proposes to collect from water and sewer utility customers that are single-family households.

Nine dollars had been discussed before and was informally agreed to on Monday. And on Wednesday the council voted to pick that amount as the base rate. All six council members voted for it, though Matilda Novak said she struggled with the decision.

The base rate is what single-family households will pay. Other utility customers will be charged depending on the size of their water meters.

On May 26 the council expects to act on an ordinance to impose what the city has been calling a “city services fee” to support departments in the general fund including police, fire, parks and libraries.

Utility customers won’t have a choice but to pay, and they won’t get a specific service they have ordered for their monthly payments. So “fee” is the wrong word. “Tax” describes it better. But because it is not a tax levied “ad valorem,” against the value of real or personal property, it is not limited by the state constitutional caps on the property tax.

As council discussions have made clear, the council could raise or lower the tax rate at its discretion. Philomath recently lowered its services fee, the council was told at a previous meeting.

At the rate chosen by the council, the Albany tax or fee would raise an estimated $2.8 million a year. This would be sufficient to avoid personnel and service cuts that would otherwise start in July.

The cost of administering this addition to city utility bills came up. City officials estimated it at $300,000 a year. But there’s no increase in the number of bills being sent or processed, so it’s hard to see why “administration” should cost anything extra at all. (hh)

33 responses to “No surprise: Council picks $9 as base fee, or tax”

  1. withheld says:

    Audacity is a word that comes to mind here. Theft also seems appropriate. “It’s only so we don’t have to cut back on police services” What’s that? Threats? Extortion? It’s very reassuring that it will only cost $300,000.00 to administer…but that’s only an estimate…It could cost more. Let this fly and it will only encourage these scoundrels.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    sheeple plural noun
    shee·​ple | \ ˈshē-pəl \
    Definition of sheeple

    : people who are docile, compliant, or do not resist or challenge abuse by government authorities: people likened to sheep.

    used in a sentence: Albany citizens, who approved and pay a property tax for general government services, act like “sheeple” when they allow the City Council to unilaterally impose “fees” that effectively raise the property tax rate.

  3. Francois DeLacroix says:

    Now it will be the anti-taxers versus the anti-vaxers – a great deal of heat, but little light.

  4. James Engel says:

    Say what…an “estimated” $300,000 to collect a measly $9 a month? It’s just another line on the bill councilors! Just like that “Storm Water” fee line. Not a whole new accounting system…..but hey, they’re the ones blowing smoke in our eyes. And they keep getting elected… Too bad Novak “struggled” with the fleecing & voting for it…I won’t be going to her restaurant again!

  5. Ed says:

    A tax is a tax is a tax – unilaterally imposing a tax on its citizens without their consent/approval through the voting process is just flat wrong. Period. If it’s so important, put it before the voters and let them choose. This reeks of “we know better than you and we are just going to do it.” Regardless of the justification and purposes for the fee, I mean, tax, it need to be decided on by the voters.

    The Council has failed miserably. $300,000 in “administrative costs” for something that is already happening???………really???????

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Ok, to the folks so vehement in their reaction to the council’s action, what would YOU do in the face of state laws that drive costs rising faster than existing revenue? And please, only solutions that are legal, practical, and actually work.

      • Jacobin Hanschlatter says:

        You fail to mention any specific State laws that drive costs higher. Sounds like fake news to this reader.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Just like was done with city debt and urban renewal, launch a petition to change the city charter.

        Citizens Right to Vote – Charges and Fees Imposed on Albany Citizens

        “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 any Albany citizen, shall not be effective unless ratified by a majority vote of the City’s qualified electors.”

        Not much can be done retroactively. And this doesn’t mean a charge or fee desired by the city council will not be approved. It just means the electors will have the final say.

        • Gordon L. Shadle says:

          To avoid a legal battle, here is more specific wording for the charter:

          Effective 1 Jan 2022 any new or increased fee shall not be imposed by the City Council without the approval of the City electors at a general election.

          The City Council shall refer every new or increased fee to City electors for their approval at a primary or general election.

          No fee approved at a primary or general election shall be diverted to the general fund.

      • Abe Cee says:

        Like a citizen you have two options:
        1. go into debt
        2. cut spending

        No reason the city can’t cut spending. The problem is that cuts tend to happen without any public input on what they are willing to do without.

      • centrist says:

        Hear, hear HH
        Blamestorms never produce a solution. While some feel the need to take up bandwidth unconstructively, there are a dedicated few who read the rules, regs, pertinent documents for understanding; and then offer a comprehensive plan that contains compromises that benefit most, but satisfy few.
        I applaud those few.

  6. Ed says:

    Hasso, you are missing the entire point here. This is a TAX to “maintain” existing services. A tax should go to the voters for approval. Make the case for what it is needed for and what will happen if it does not pass. Even if I agree with the purposes for this “fee” disguised as a tax, it is simply wrong to implement it without voter consent. If the voters want it, they will vote for it. If they don’t, they (we) will live with the consequences of it not passing. If those consequences are deemed severe enough the voters, then they would approve subsequent vote on the matter.

    • H. R. Richnerr says:

      I don’t think Hasso’s remark is beside the point. It reminds us about the costly unfunded mandates from the state government. If there is no separate accounting for them, maybe there should be, along with a cost-benefit analysis involved in disobeying them

  7. Larry nelson says:

    I get charged for the storm water tax and there is not a storm drain within 1/4 mile.
    They say this new tax is based on your water meter, I don’t use city water but you know that tax bill will find me Anway.

  8. Ted says:

    Why shouldn’t the City Council do what it pleases and to h…l with what the voters think as long as they get re-elected to sit in the seats behind the big desk. A serious question here. Does anybody know how many members of the City Council have lost their bids for re-election in say, the last ten years? If the latest joke of a ballot for Linn county with every position (not that they are earth changing positions) was unopposed except one. Silence and re-elections are tacit approval.

  9. Patrick John Quinn says:

    I am kind of curious about the fact that fire, ems, and police would be affected by this, (laying off personnel unless they impose this tax.) didn’t we, not too long ago, pass a police, fire, and ems levy to prevent this? So if you are going to tax us $9.00 more a month to keep from laying off these emergency services personnel, does that mean the city of Albany will no longer request us to pass another levy for such? Seem to me it should be one or the other, not both.

    • Bob Woods says:

      The levy paid the cost for the positions specified in the levy, but they’re still only one part of the overall budget. That levy money, plus the rest of the (Mostly) property tax money goes into the total cost of funding the services in the general fund. Oregon’s “unique” property tax system provides proportionally less and less of the money needed for those General Fund services (Police, Fire, EMS, Parks, Library, Planning) than it did 30 years ago.

      Go read the proposed budget for yourself. You won’t need to read the whole thing because all the accounting info that is included is immense. Read the City Manager’s message (page 27) and the explanations.


      It’s not easy. It’s hard and takes a lot of attention, or at least a willingness to remember that the Mayor and Council were ELECTED by the citizens of Albany to figure all this out as your direct representatives.

      Certainly not as easy as all the prattle about “just cut”, and demands to vote on everything from the I-hate-government-no-matter-what crowd that posts here daily.

  10. withheld says:

    Bob Woods “Mayor and Council were ELECTED by the citizens of Albany to figure all this out as your direct representatives”
    Well that’s it then…..They can do what they want!

    • Bob Woods says:

      Yes, within the confines of the law and that is what they are SUPPOSED to do. We are a representative democracy. Been that way for over 230 years.

      It this NEW information to you? Or do you think things ought to be run according to whatever you want, regardless of how the laws are written.

  11. Debbie Berg says:

    So, they are claiming only $9 a month. Well, break it down so it is more realistic. That is $108 a year for each single family household. If you break that down $300,000 divided by $108 that is almost 2800 households. I THINK NOT! I am not stupid and my math skills are pretty good. The council is trying to make it think it is ONLY $9 but in realty they will be collecting over a million dollars. What about the “fees” they will be charging for multi family or commercial. What a way to try to think people are gullible.

    • Bob Woods says:

      You have your information all mixed up. Re-read what Hasso wrote. It’s designed to bring in 2.8 million to cover the costs.

  12. Jeff says:

    A tax like this creates problems because there is NO direct accountability to the tax payers. The police can treat the public like subjects and not citizens. They can forget who works for who. It will have ramifications that affect others like the Sheriffs Office who runs off an operating levy for an elected official. Both the operating levy and elected official ensure accountability to the public. Also if they arbitrarily decide $9 now why not $10 or $50 later? The people paying the Bill should have say. The police department is professional and has good people but they need to go about getting money from the people a different way. You cannot force relationships.

  13. Bob Woods says:

    Jeff: “A tax like this creates problems because there is NO direct accountability to the tax payers. ”

    Good grief!

    It’s disheartening that so many people do not understand how democracy works. The Council is directly accountable to the taxpayers. There was an election last fall. The voters decided who they wanted.

    You get a chance to vote again in 2022.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Bob, the city manager said in 10 years the budget is projected to be $88,000,000 short.

      Let’s make you King for a day. What is your solution to that problem?

      Would you support having the council impose a $150 monthly fee to the garbage bill for every household and business?

      • Bob Woods says:

        I don’t need to be a king. 10 year projections are just that: A projection that shows what may be the outcome with no changes. Very useful to come to a realization that changes are necessary to keep the city growing and solvent.

        The City Managers message talks about it and what the problem is and what needs to change. You should read it.

  14. withheld says:

    Bob Woods says:
    “There was an election last fall. The voters decided who they wanted.
    You get a chance to vote again in 2022.” Thank you Bob!
    Well then hopefully folks take your words to heart! I hope everyone will remember who decided to tax us without our consent…It’s pretty easy to keep account since the vote was unanimous. Albany citzens should vote to remove all now sitting on the Albany City Council in the next election. “Those who fail to remember are doomed to repeat.”

    • Bob Woods says:

      Read the Oregon Constitution and the Oregon Revised Statutes and the City of Albany Charter, then quit posting like a child.

  15. withheld says:

    You know you’ve made your point when the personal attacks begin…Child indeed!

  16. Keo Teghtmeyer says:

    I called Councilman Olsen to ask why we will be assessed the whole amount for the Water and Sewer fee since our property and many others in N. Albany are not connected to a sewer line. He denied knowing this–a councilman who has represented this area for a long time. In short his answer as to why was “…it is just way it is.” He suggested I attend the meeting to voice my opinion. I had hoped as my councilman and my bringing it up, he would speak for those of us without sewer. Guess not–my feeling is that the council wants this fee and pushed it through no matter what.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Of course I don’t know what he said or you heard him say. What he could have said is that the service fee is for general fund programs — police, fire, libraries, parks etc. — and, for households, has nothing to do with actual utilities like water and sewer. Adding it to the utility bills is just the proposed way of collecting it.

  17. Tom says:

    How do households get charged this $9.00 tax/fee if they do not use city water/sewer services and are on their own well/septic system?


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