It was announced in the Lake Oswego Review dated Thursday, March 27 that the Lake Oswego City Council has ironed out the exact wording for a May ballot measure that could refinance the City's purchase of the Safeco building.
A key statement in Measure 3-295 advises 'there has not been a final determination of the use of the property'. The measure also states that 'potential uses could include the city's 9-1-1 dispatch center' (and) 'police department facilities…' What the measure fails to spell out is the need to upgrade the Safeco building to current seismic and safety requirements and add required backup systems, all of which will cost millions of additional dollars. The implication is that if we, the taxpayers, authorize a $20 million property bond measure, all of these potential uses will be covered. This measure will increase our property taxes by $105 to $175 per year, for property assessments of $300,000 to $500,000, just to cover the $20 million refinancing of the building. Another telling omission is that the measure does not address what alternative action will be taken if it is not approved by the voters.
Let's take a look at the competing property tax measures that will be appearing on the November general election ballot.
Portland Community College is sending a $374 million bond measure to the voters in November. This is the biggest education property tax proposal in Oregon history in spite of the fact that enrollment has declined over the past five years. (Oregonian, January 18, 2008) This measure will cost property owners 35.5 cents per $1,000 property assessment, (Lake Oswego Review, March 27, 2008), translating to another annual tax increase of $105 to $175 for $300,000 to $500,000 property assessments.
Additionally, Clackamas County is sending a November library levy to voters that will cost 40 cents per $1,000 assessment translating to a third property tax increase of $120 to $200 per year for $300,000 to $500,000 assessments. (The Portland Tribune, March 25, 2008)
The three measures add up to an additional $330 to $550 per year for a minimum of 20 years. This does not include the Lake Oswego school bonds that will be up for renewal in November, nor does it address the +$100 million sewer interceptor cost for which financing has yet to be determined by the city. If the decision is made to source the full sewer interceptor financing through a 20-year property tax bond, the increased tax could range from $525 to $875 per year, just for the sewer interceptor alone!
There is a growing attitude throughout local and county governments that real estate and development agendas and unnecessary services take precedence over the basic health, safety, infrastructure and educational needs of our communities.
It is time the taxpayers evaluate their own financial health and the real needs of their communities. Their conclusions can be clearly communicated through the ballots that contain these referendums that we will be seeing in May and November of this year.
Denny Hageman is a resident of Lake Oswego.