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Bait and switch pondered

Would you vote for a Lake Oswego tax levy if you couldn't be sure the additional taxes would be used as outlined on the ballot?

Apparently the Lake Oswego City Council has decided to do what it wants with the tax dollars approved for the Lake Oswego Library no matter what the ballot intended. Is this a case of 'bait and switch?' Here's the history:

In 2008, voters passed a levy for Clackamas County, increasing their taxes 39¢/$1,000 of assessed property value to support the Lake Oswego Library and the other county libraries.

In 2009, the city of Lake Oswego received an additional $914,000 from the Clackamas County Library tax levy. Did the city council allow the Lake Oswego Library to spend these funds? No. This $914,000 was earmarked for the development of a new library. No additional money was given to the library for operational expenses.

In 2010, the city of Lake Oswego received an additional $1 million from the 2008 Clackamas County Library tax levy. Did the city council allow our library to spend these funds? Again no. They didn't even set these funds aside for a future library. They simply reallocated this $1 million to other departments and froze our library's budget.

In 2011, the city of Lake Oswego will receive an additional $1 million from the 2008 Clackamas County Library tax levy. Was our library allowed to use these funds? No again. In fact, the library's budget may be reduced! But it gets even worse. Last month our City Council raided the $914,000 received in 2009 that was set aside for a future library. They voted to 'take' $414,000 of the $914,000. Also, two council members, Gudman and Kehoe, are trying to take the remaining $500,000!

We all know the importance of excellent public schools. But taking money from the library to support schools is just plain wrong, especially since the voters in 2008 clearly voted to increase library funds, not school funds.

As David White stated in his letter, 'it is particularly disappointing that this misguided mission is being led by so-called fiscal conservatives who are fond of slogans like it's our (the people's) money and don't tax people without their consent.' In 2008 Clackamas County residents consented to additional taxes specifically for its libraries, not for its schools. Now this 'fiscally conservative' city council intends to transfer $2 million in 2011, and possibly $6 million over the next three years, from the city to the schools and raid all of the Clackamas County Library levy funds allocated to the Lake Oswego Library.

Furthermore, how does the city council justify moving $2 million of city funds to the school district when up to a thousand of its residents - the ones who live in the city of Lake Oswego but in Multnomah County (Mountain Park) - cannot send their children to the Lake Oswego schools? Is this fair to them?

What is happening is dangerous for the city. Raiding millions of dollars from the library and giving it to the schools is financially irresponsible and unfair to the taxpayers who approved the Library tax levy in 2008. The next time the city council asks voters for a levy to support police, fire or schools they may find they have lost the public's trust.

Richard L. Slaven, Ph.D., is a resident of Lake Oswego and served as a superintendent of public schools for 20 years in Oregon, Ohio, Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

Editor's note: Christine Kirk, public affairs manager for the city of Lake Oswego, responds:

'In response to Mr. Slaven's letter, the city of Lake Oswego would like to assure taxpayers that all Clackamas County Library District funds sent to Lake Oswego are used for library services and the library continues to be supported by other funds. This year the city received $2.1 million from the district; the total library budget is $3 million.

'Clackamas County voters supported a countywide Library Services District in the 2008 election. As federal funds to the county were going away (referred to as 'timber revenue'), voters supported permanent, dedicated library funding. Also, the district assured that each municipality in Clackamas County would receive an additional one-time allocation of $1 million for capital construction. The money that the district provides for library services and capital in Lake Oswego is given to our library.

'The library's total budget is made up of district funds, general fund (property tax) monies, donations, fines and other funds. Mr. Slaven is accurate in that as increased district funds became available there was a decrease in general fund to the library. The city council at first allocated a portion of the general fund going to the library into future capital for a new library and has since used the general fund for other property tax dependent services. While the city continues to provide general fund dollars in addition to library district monies for direct operations of the library, it is this move of general fund dollars that is the source of discussion.

'As a point of clarification, the city's proposed budget for fiscal year 2011-12 does not show a decline in overall library funds. It includes a slight increase in general fund and total operating dollars.

'The city council carefully vetted revenues and funds to determine what legally could be provided to the school district. As part of the process to support the schools, the city council allocated less than half, $414,000, of the general fund previously set aside for library capital. The allocation was done after the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency, made up of city council, moved to support exploring a new library within the urban renewal area that would be eligible for urban renewal dollars.

'The city understands that as the number one ranked library in the state of Oregon the Lake Oswego Public Library has many passionate supporters who were key in both the passage of the library district and who remain integral to the daily operation of our innovative, award-winning institution. The district has assured that there will be a permanent source of funding for Lake Oswego, with dedicated funds for library operations. Such dedicated funds prevented drastic reductions that would have occurred after the loss of 'timber revenue' and has largely stabilized the library system in Clackamas County.

'The budget committee is currently reviewing the city budget, which includes funds for the school district and funding for city services. At the first budget committee meeting, a representative of the Library Advisory Board provided a copy of their resolution on this matter and raised concerns over the $414,000 for the budget committee to consider. The budget committee is made up of seven citizens plus the seven council members. For more information on the proposed budget go to http://www.ci.oswego.or.us/finance/budg.htm.'