Council sets $1.60 rate despite calls for a higher level

Caught between a desire to fully fund city services and the need to respect the hardships faced by many taxpayers, the Forest Grove City Council comprised Monday night.

As city leaders pondered how much to ask for when putting an operating levy before voters, many activists have lobbied for a rate of $1.85 per $1,000 of assessed value.

But with a current rate of $1.35, that 50-cent jump was a bit much for a majority of the council, which, in a 6-1 vote, settled on a rate of $1.60 for the May ballot.

The current operating levy, which provides roughly $1.5 million for funding parks, public safety and library services, expires in 2013, so city officials want to go to voters this year with a new request.

Because of flat property taxes and slow development, the $1.35 rate can't keep up with rising costs of labor, fuel and health care.

Bumping the rate to $1.60 will likely force the city to make cuts down the road, but it was viewed as the most voters will tolerate.

Councilor Tom BeLusko noted that three local levies that passed in 2010 all were straight renewals, with no increase in rates.

'We have a responsibility to spend as frugally as we can in these economic times,' he said. 'The constituency I talk to says, 'What do you mean, an increase?' We need to move to the middle ground.'

Tom Johnston, who pushed for a $1.85 rate, was the lone 'no' vote.

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