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Sweet Home, Oregon
September 26, 2012     The New Era Paper
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September 26, 2012

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Page 14 Vct J# CCMMLJNffV le e r - September 26, 2012 m City From page 1 the League of Oregon Cities at the forum. Officials introduced five pro- posals drafted by the league, which provides lobbying services and training for 242 city governments throughout the state. Local Control Amendment - Introduced by Sweet Home City Councilman Scott McKee, this pro- " posed constitutional amendment vould allow local communities to vote on option levies outside of compression and would lengthen the maximum duration of a levy from five to 10 years. McKee noted that Sweet Home has been especially hard hit by compression and its low per- manent tax rate. He said that Linn County's local option levy and fall- ing property values in Sweet Home have left the city with losses of $730,000 - "nearly a third of what the levy was supposed to collect. "We've had to eliminate four positions and reduce library servic- es," he said. "We've also seen an increase in public safety employees seeking employment elsewhere, due to job security concerns." Sprenger and Girod cautioned that eliminating compression might make it harder to sell voters on lo- cal option levies. "A big part of these campaigns is when you're out campaigning and you say, 'This won't raise your taxes,'" Sprenger said. "This is not a silver bullet. You can't say that because it will." She said she understood the difficulties of Sweet Home's situ- ation, noting that she remembers a campaign for an option levy to fund a Bookmobile in Albany a few years ago. "How do you pick funding for jail beds over third-grade reading levels? Something is inherently wrong." Girod agreed, adding that he thought passage of such a proposal Sweet Home Mayor Craig Fentiman, in the legislature would be diffi- cult. "I think you could very well lose," he said. "Timing's every- thing in politics and the timing's not right." Frank, a former Stayton City Council member, suggested that Sweet Home consider merging its law enforcement with another community, which is what Sublim- ity and Stayton did. He said tax reform is the "only" answer to the levy problems. "We can't keep doing things the way we've always done things," he said. Reset at Sale - Also a pro- posed constitutional amendment, this would reset a property's as- sessed value to its real market value when it is sold or when con- struction occurs. Taxes would not be raised on a current home. Finance Director Patricia Gray told the panel that "people are getting a break on their property Photo by Scott Swanson standing at left, moderates the forum of city, county and state officials during the City Hall Week activities. taxes," blaming the problem on Measure 50, passed in 1997, which created a new "assessed value" for all properties at 90 percent of the property's 1995-96 real market value. She said that, plus the capping of annual growth, have resulted in huge disparities in tax bills as property values have increased and as neighborhoods have gentrified. A related problem is that, due to varying ratios used to calculate the value of new property, "identical properties with the same sale price, but permitted only months apart, can have dramatically different tax liabilities." She cited a Lincoln Institute of Land Policy report that says of 17 states with similar property tax limitations, Oregon's "has gone the farthest of any (in the country) in breaking the link between property taxes and property values." In response, Frank suggested repealing Measure 50 but the other panel members expressed doubts that simply resetting the values would have much effect in Sweet Home. Girod pointed out that in larg- er cities, such as Portland and Eu- gene, such a move might help. "If Sweet Home went to a free-market system, you'd get less tax revenue," he said, because land values are very low in the area. "Be careful what you ask for," he said. "If the assessed value is lower, you get less tax revenue. There's a disconnect between Portland and Eugene, compared to Sweet Home and Waterloo." Sprenger echoed that warn- ing. "In our desperation to pay the bills, let's make sure we don't do something that could bite us in the butt," she said. Jobs and Economic Devel- opment - Sweet Home's Commu- nity Development Director Brian Hoffman presented a request for: $10 million to fund the Brownfield Revolving Loan Redevelopment Fund, which finances loans that commercial lenders can't provide to clean up industrial sites; $25 million of Special Public Works funding to provide funding to mu- nicipalities to make industrial sites "shovel" ready for development; and $15 million to assist communi- ties with funding incentives re-use or redevelop existing industrial lands. Hoffman notedthat a League survey indicated that lack of infra- structure is the biggest hurdle to at- tracting new or expanded industrial development. "I think we've seen the ben- efits within our region of having shovel-ready sites," he said, with a nod to Lebanon City Manager John Hitt, who was sitting in the audi- ence. "In Sweet Home our growth has been plagued by problems that could be solved by these initia- tives." Panelists were generally sup- See City, page 15 BII ml BII lm ml IB IB ml ml Mail form & your check / money order to: The New Era PO Box39 " Sweet Home, OR 97386 Name: m|mmi $32 /Year: Inside Linn County $40 / Year: Outside Linn County Address: Cit: State: Zip: Phone: Or Calm us with your Visa / Mastercard at (541) 367-2135 and subscribe over the phone,