Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Public safety levy subject of town halls


The city of Gresham is hosting a series of town hall meetings starting next week to get community input on how to fund police and fire services, including the possibility of a voter-approved levy next spring.

Last December, Gresham city councilors created a temporary monthly fee of $7.50 for all households and businesses to avoid further cuts to police, fire and park service through June 2014.

The fee took effect in February, when it began to appear on utility bills for businesses and households in Gresham, including apartments, duplexes, rental houses and owner-occupied dwellings.

It is raising $3.5 million to prevent further cuts to public safety. Ninety-five percent of the money will fund police and fire services, with 5 percent for park maintenance.

But with the fee set to expire in less than a year, the city is beginning to explore replacing it with a 5-year levy that residents would vote on next May to create a long-term funding source for public safety.

The town hall meetings are as follows:

• 6:30-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 26, Gresham City Hall Council Chambers, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway

• 6:30-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 3, Butler Creek Elementary School, 2789 S.W. Butler Road

• 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, MetroEast Community Media, 829 N.E. Eighth St. (To attend the MetroEast town hall, contact Laura Shepard at 503-618-2247)

Gresham has long struggled to fund city services with one of the lowest property tax rates in the state. Without more revenue for the city's general fund, the bulk of which pays for police and fire services, Gresham would have been forced to consider closing a fire station this year or making cuts to police that would lower response times.

Residents narrowly defeated a public safety levy in 2008, the first year of the global economic downturn.

"Because of Oregon's statewide property tax restrictions and Gresham's low $3.61 permanent property tax rate, the City is at a defining moment in its ability to provide the level of essential police and fire services this rapidly growing, urban city needs," Mayor Shane Bemis said.

As for the odds of a levy meeting with voter approval, Bemis said, "I've always bet on Gresham, and at the end of the day, I think our residents are ready to support the resources necessary to fund vital public safety services and protect our home values and livability."