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Voters should reject Beavertons urban renewal plan

The Beaverton City Council is asking residents to vote for the Central Beaverton Urban Renewal Plan, Ballot Measure 34-192. No new taxes. Supported by the Washington County Board of Commissioners, the Beaverton School Board and other local taxing districts… A slam dunk?

Not when it takes a leap of faith that redevelopment of 977 'blighted' Beaverton acres will benefit residents in the long run. And not if you live in or near the district and can't afford new Nike shoes to make that leap.

It's not that I don't support urban renewal. Living at the eastern border of Washington County, our neighborhood is an island that voluntarily annexed into the city of Beaverton in the late 1990s. My husband and I wanted to be part of a vibrant community that, in turn, invested in the schools our young children would attend.

Tax increment financing is an accounting sleight of hand that would slight Beaverton's public schools of more than $50 million in the next 30 years. The Beaverton School District is trying to fill gaping budget holes with a local option levy this November. Why poke new holes with this measure?

These new holes in the school district's budget would grow over the next 30 years. That's partly because most local properties are assessed at a lower Measure 50 value that still lags far behind the real market value, growing 3 percent per year. (It's also why some frustrated homeowners are paying more in taxes even when their homes have lost real market value since last year - and why passing any new taxes is particularly challenging now.) But it's mostly because the goal of urban renewal is to increase property values in and around the urban renewal district through improvements and through attraction of new businesses. That comes with time.

Home to the silicon forest, Washington County is the second wealthiest county in Oregon. The city of Beaverton boasts employment sectors that include technology and manufacturing, export trade and apparel.

Nike was just named the No. 1 sports brand in the world, valued at $15 billion. Many well-paid employees live near Nike and the high-tech sector and send their kids to Beaverton schools, especially those north of Sunset Highway in unincorporated Washington County.

Since 2000, Beaverton residents helped pay for five schools to accommodate urban growth there. Three of those schools (Findley, Jacob Wismer and Stoller) were built with capital construction bonds voters passed before 2001. Urban renewal takes a bite out of those tax collections as well.

It's unlikely these newer schools will be annexed into the Beaverton boundaries any time soon. Nike didn't use kid gloves when it boxed Beaverton into a corner. In 2005, the Legislature exempted Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Tektronix and Electro Scientific Industries from forced annexation into Beaverton for 30 years. This also slowed the city's attempts to annex islands elsewhere.

Nike's tax shelter is only one of many successful lobbying efforts to decrease local and state taxes. There's no telling how much the 'single-sales-factor' formula has favored this global giant which no longer bases its state income tax on payroll, property and sales.

CEO Mark Parker recently remarked, 'In 20 years, up to 65 percent of the world's population could be middle class. And most of that in China, India and Brazil.' That's why Nike plans to build a Chinese headquarters in Shanghai - and explains why Nike's employment hasn't rebounded here since it shed 500 headquarter jobs in 2009.

Nike rewarded Parker $14.53 million in total compensation, making him the 97th highest paid executive - skyrocketing from his No. 301 position on last year's list. Some might call that a flagrant foul since Nike would contribute only $1.6 million to Beaverton's coffers if incorporated into Beaverton and taxed at the $4/$1,000 rate. That's because Nike owns property assessed at $402 million within the Beaverton School District and unincorporated Washington County.

If the urban renewal plan passes, $777 million worth of property in the urban renewal district would increase about 3 percent, or $23 million in the first year. That increment, taxed at $15/$1,000, would only yield $350,000 for Beaverton's urban renewal.

The state school funding formula is supposed to backfill money lost from local revenues with general fund dollars - unlikely since that pot is also shrinking. Since the increment compounds annually, the urban renewal district won't support cost-of-living increases for parks, fire departments and school districts 30 years to come.

The Supreme Court says corporations are people. It's true Nike's world headquarters boasts 7,000 Oregon employees, who do pay taxes and purchase goods and services. But these employees also send their kids to Beaverton schools and deserve a safe, thriving community.

As shareholders of our future, we must wisely invest in both growth and renewal. Since Nike has an established position as a leader in the state, it should set a good role model for its corporate neighbors. Take the fast break, Nike, and voluntarily incorporate into the city of Beaverton. Beaverton residents should reject Ballot Measure 34-192.

(Kris Alman retired from healthcare to become a citizen activist for a healthier democracy. She lives in Raleigh Hills.)