Budget committee will likely recommend reinstatement of fee, but at higher rate

Now that a proposed property tax levy failed on the May ballot, the city’s budget committee must come up with a plan for funding police, fire and parks.

That plan then would be forwarded to the Gresham City Council for consideration.

The regular City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 3, has been canceled, according to the city’s website, but a special meeting of the council will be held that same day from 6-6:30 p.m. to consider the budget committee’s recommendations.

According to resident Carol Rulla, the budget committee voted at its kickoff meeting last week to recommend reinstating a flat tax that will expire at the end of the month.

Rulla said she was the only person to speak at the meeting before the committee.

“I was the only citizen who testified ... and even though I don’t like the regressiveness of the fee, I urged the council to reinstate the fee,” she said.

Rulla said the new amount has not been determined, but that previous statements by staff indicated the new fee would be “at least $10 per month” to avoid $5.4 million in cuts to the three departments. The previous flat tax was $7.50 per month.

Details of the budget committee’s recommendations are still being worked out, said city spokeswoman Robin Franzen-Parker, and will be presented at the special council meeting.

City Councilor Lori Stegmann said the council could informally adopt the budget committee’s recommendations at the June 3 meeting, but that final adoption of the city’s budget would not happen for a few weeks.

“It could be informally adopted,” she said. “That would give us an idea of consensus so we can move on from there.”

Even though it had been strongly promoted by the city, the property tax levy on the May ballot failed by 179 votes — 6,202 “yes” votes, or 49.29 percent, versus 6,381 “no” votes, or 50.17 percent.

Gresham has to augment its budget for police, fire and parks because its property rate is one of the lowest in the state, locked in because of state measures, at $3.61 per $1,000 of assessed value. It can’t be raised, but pressures on the city mount up and resources are stretched, Mayor Shane Bemis said recently.

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