Community center vs. your taxes
Are your property taxes too high? If the city goes ahead with its plan to build the new Community Center on the Safeco Property it acquired for $20 million this summer, the average Lake Oswego homeowner (assessed value $350,000) will spend $370 per year for 20 years, or $7,400 to pay for the facility. That assumes the total cost of the facility, including the Safeco purchase, can be kept to $60 million. At $80 million, the tax per household jumps to $9,800 and at $100 million, the cost is $12,300, and that is just for an assessed value of $350,000. These projected taxpayer costs were supplied by the city.
The projected total cost of the project is not yet known, but the Community Center Steering Committee has now finished its preliminary design recommendations and it includes a new library (replacing the current one), an aquatic center, athletic center and community gathering places. The formal cost will not be available until after the architectural design is finalized in spring 2007. The taxpayer approval on the bond issue funding the Community Center will not take place until November of 2008, two years from now! By that time, the city will have already spent more than $3 million of our money in interest on the loan funding the Safeco property purchase, lost property taxes on the property, and consulting and architectural fees.
Many question why the Community Center should include an aquatic center and athletic facility when there are private clubs available. 75 percent of the respondents to the city survey on the new Community Center said they already belong to an exercise or athletic club. Would they drop their current club and join the Community Center? According to the city the users of the athletic or aquatic center at the Community Center would be charged a market rate daily fee. So why would they go to the new Community Center? And those of us who don't change would be paying for the new aquatic and athletic center's construction in addition to our monthly club fees. Does this make sense? Further, is it in the city's charter to compete against private Lake Oswego businesses?
Many also question the advisability of including a new library in the proposal. Closing the current library downtown to build the new one on the Safeco property has met much citizen opposition. Also, providing space for 'community gatherings' is nice, but is it necessary, especially at this cost?
Is it necessary to wait until November 2008 and waste $3 million by then to tell the mayor and the city council they overstepped the community's interests in purchasing the Safeco property? If you agree that planning and spending on this facility has gotten out of hand and the Safeco property purchase was done prematurely and should have been authorized by taxpayer approval, e-mail or call the mayor and city council. It may take a voter ballot measure or legal action to force the city to reverse the Safeco decision, but in my view those may be the only actions that will remedy the unfortunate situation in which we find ourselves.
Gordon Umaki is a resident of Lake Oswego.