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Gresham residents must pay to maintain services

The Gresham City Council is to be applauded for its willingness to listen to concerns of residents and to act upon what it heard.

You’ll recall that Mayor Shane Bemis in September raised the possibility of enacting a $7.50 per month fee — paid by every household and business — as a means of providing necessary funding for police, fire and park services.

In the weeks that followed, the city listened to feedback from people representing homeowners, renters, landlords, business owners (small and large), people living on fixed incomes and from those who could easily afford the added expense.

What the city heard wasn’t all that surprising: People are worried that their rents will go up; that they’ll be required to absorb the cost on a fixed income; that Gresham could come back and raise the fee at a later date without notification; and that the public won’t have a voice in the fee.

Those messages were heard loud and clear.

Rather than simply implement a fee, the council is asking that city staff put together a levy proposal that would accomplish the same goals. If the council chooses to go with a levy, it would require approval by Gresham residents.

We think that’s wise, but at the same time we are worried about what might be in store for Gresham’s future. If Gresham residents were to defeat such a levy, they might wind up saving a few dollars in exchange for an erosion of city services.

This city already has pushed its staff and programming to a breaking point. Without the fee — or a levy — Gresham faces even deeper cuts to its municipal services.

Unless Gresham comes up with additional revenue, possibilities for balancing the budget include closing a fire station (which would increase response time); continuing to watch as the population grows while the police presence stagnates or declines; and ignoring park maintenance. None of those choices make sense for the livability of the fourth-largest city in Oregon.

So we applaud the City Council for its efforts to involve the public in this important funding decision. Yet we are painfully aware that a final outcome must be that costs increase in order to maintain services.



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