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There are ways to control some city fees, rates

To attract new residents and retain current residents, the city of Lake Oswego must keep the overall cost of living here affordable. Housing costs are market driven, and therefore not effectively within our control. We can certainly work to trim the cost of providing city services to residents.

Tax rates, water and sewer rates, street and franchise fees are areas that with proper management we can have influence on and exercise control.

With regard to property taxes, the last budget cycle provided clear evidence that the city controlled millage rate can, by approval of the city council, be reduced to provide some relief for residents. In fact, the council voted to direct our city manager to come back with a 2012-2013 fiscal year budget that factored in such a rate reduction.

With input from staff, our city manager did in fact provide such a budget proposal for the Citizen Budget Committee to review. To its credit, the CBC, which is comprised of the mayor and the six councilors, as well as seven appointed Lake Os wego residents, sifted through the budget, reallocating more money for streets, but still approved a city budget that kept the rate reduction in place. That meant that all the council had to do was adopt the budget approved by the CBC — one that our city manager explained did not cut any existing programs or services — to effectively give relief to Lake Oswego taxpayers. Regretfully, when the budget came before the city council for final approval, a 4 to 3 council majority rejected the good work of the CBC, our city manager and staff. Councilors Olson, Kehoe and Gudman voted to approve, Mayor Hoffman, councilors Tierney, Moncrieff and Jordan voted to reject.

The message sent to frustrated citizens was clear, even though our city did not need the additional tax money to keep current programs and service levels intact, they were going to demand it anyway. Not a pleasant message for residents faced with painful water and sewer bills.

The message I have heard during my door-to-door campaign is that many residents are concerned about the escalating cost of their water and sewer bills. I have met people who are stunned when their water bill arrives, telling me that they have already cut back on water consumption and are questioning how and why their bills have increased so dramatically.

Indeed, some people tell me they will have to move out of Lake Oswego because the cost of living here is more than they can bear. A measure of relief could be provided by following the suggestion of Councilor Gudman, which detailed how a per household credit of approximately $100 per month for six months is attainable, and within the ability of the council to authorize. I support Councilor Gudman’s proposal for a credit. I also support a review of the water partnership in general. I support a comprehensive review of the master fee schedule.

Citizens need to have confidence that the fees they pay for everything from permits to park programs are as low as possible. Moreover, we need to start looking at the totality of taxes, rates and fees and their cumulative effect on affordability. Our schools will struggle and our local businesses will suffer if people can no longer afford to live in our beautiful city.

Dan Williams is a candidate for the Lake Oswego City Council.