Three letters in last week's Review misrepresented the city council's recent school funding decision.
I'm a member of the Citizens Budget Committee as well as a parent of two school-age children, including one who attends Bryant Elementary (one of the schools that will be impacted by school closures). I have closely followed the school funding issue as both a concerned parent and someone who knows the details of our city budget.
The three letters in last week's Review were written in a way that implied that Councilors Olson, Kehoe and Gudman did not support providing city funding for the schools. That is absolutely false. In fact, the council has been in unanimous agreement on providing funding for the schools this year. Councilors Olson, Kehoe and Gudman are very well known supporters of LOSD and are firmly committed to helping the schools. City council's disagreement was never about whether to help the school district. It was HOW to fund the $2 million. That is where the philosophical differences between council members became apparent.
Councilors Olson, Gudman and Kehoe wanted to trim the city budget, one that absolutely can and should be trimmed, and provide the funding from our existing resources. They were opposed to any new fees or taxes being imposed, especially in light of the current economy and the recent water and sewer rate increases.
Conversely, (Mayor) Hoffman and (Councilor) Moncrieff were leading the charge on increasing taxes and fees to find the funding - even suggesting not only the increase to franchise fees but also an increase in our property taxes, and even a local income tax! While other new taxes were voted down, the franchise fee increase passed on a closely divided council vote with four (Hoffman, Moncrieff, Jordan and Tierney) in favor and three (Olson, Kehoe and Gudman) against.
I share Councilors Olson, Kehoe and Gudman's concern that this franchise fee increase will harm not only our citizens on limited incomes, but also local businesses that already generously support our schools and the district foundation.
During our Citizens Budget Committee meetings (a group made up of the city council and seven citizens), Olson suggested other means of funding that could replace the franchise fee. The city manager and finance director indicated that Olson's funding alternative was credible and workable. The solution was not a ' budget gimmick.' Councilor Tierney liked Olson's solution and voted for it. In fact, of the 14 budget committee members, 9 voted for Olson's solution and just five voted against it, including Hoffman, Moncrieff and Jordan.
Tierney then made an announcement of his intent to make a motion at the next council meeting to repeal the council's franchise fee decision. But, that council meeting ran late and was ended without addressing Tierney's motion. At the next meeting, Tierney made the surprise announcement that he had changed his mind about supporting the budget committee's decision and would not be making the motion to repeal the council's franchise fee decision.
Councilor Tierney's reasons for changing his mind are his, but for others to suggest that his uncertainty somehow makes Olson, Kehoe and Gudman not supportive of the schools is pure political nonsense. It takes courage to trim budgets. It takes integrity to be consistent. Raising taxes and fees rather than taking advantage of Olson's plan was disappointing.
Dan Williams is the Citizen Budget Committee vice chairman for the Lake Oswego and ran last year for a position on the Lake Oswego City Council.