Tigard staff, Bull Mountain disagree on incorporation economics

Tigard staff is reviewing the proposed city's economic feasibility statement

TIGARD - Just like neighbors chatting over the back fence, Tigard officials and representatives from the proposed City of Bull Mountain met June 20 to discuss the economic feasibility statement prepared by ECONorthwest as part of the incorporation process.

And just like sometimes happens among neighbors, there were some disagreements over information in the statement.

City staff prepared a 3½-page review of the statement, which led John Tapogna, managing director of ECONorthwest, to say, 'It didn't strike me as necessarily a balanced review.'

The Washington County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to hold its first public hearing on incorporating the city July 25 in anticipation of putting the issue on the November ballot.

'My position is that the best situation for the area … inside the urban growth (boundary is) to come inside the city of Tigard,' Mayor Craig Dirksen told Lisa Hamilton Treick and other Bull Mountain representatives. 'That's been our standard from the beginning, and I still believe that to be so.

'But that being not a choice that was made, the next best option is for the area to incorporate on its own as opposed to remaining unincorporated as it is now. So, within the bounds of that, we are not in opposition to this concept - the idea of the area incorporating. And we don't intend to actively oppose it.'

Some of the issues open to debate include:

n Paying for parks - The statement calls for 61 acres of parks on Bull Mountain, and city staff estimates that nearly $40 million would be needed to purchase sites and develop them.

'We have assumed as part of the permanent operating tax rate, property taxes that would be sufficient to pay for those services,' Tapogna said.

n Police - As proposed, the City of Bull Mountain would contract with the Washington County's Sheriff's office to provide .5 officer per 1,000 residents, down from the current 1.0 through the Enhanced Sheriff's Patrol District.

As for effects on the city of Tigard, staff maintains that Tigard police would often be expected to respond to calls from the City of Bull Mountain due to a county policy of sending the nearest available unit when an in-district unit is not available.

Tapogna said that according to the sheriff's office, 'the level of service is comparable to what the City of Bull Mountain is receiving now - in fact, somewhat better because there would be dedicated detectives within the boundaries of the City of Bull Mountain.'

n Library - The statement assumes residents of the new city would receive services through Washington County Cooperative Library Services.

According to interim Community Development Director Tom Coffee, the City of Bull Mountain would be the only city in the county with a population over 2,100 without its own library.

City staff maintains that the new $12-million Tigard Public Library funded by Tigard residents is the closest one to Bull Mountain, and its residents would use it while only contributing to its operation and maintenance through a county levy.

'To the extent that presents an adverse impact to the city of Tigard, I think on one hand it exists now,' Tapogna said.

n First- and third-year budgets - According to the Tigard staff review, the budget understates costs, including not factoring in inflation and startup costs, underestimating insurance coverage and workers' comp and retirement costs, and not providing for technology expenses.

Also, according to staff, the cost of a city hall is underestimated, debt service costs are not included, reliance on planning grants is unrealistic, and property tax revenue is unrealistic.

'I think we've been conservative or professionally cautious in our forecast of property taxes and assessed values going forward,' Tapogna said, adding that the same was true for employee costs.

'I think the broader question that needs to be asked is - Is $2.84 per thousand of assessed value a level that can lead to an economically feasible city in the state of Oregon?' Tapogna asked, noting that the new city's property taxes per capita would be roughly comparable to the state average.