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Demographics should prioritize funding requirements in LO

“The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.”

— Will Rogers

While many have fixated on Lake Oswego as the second most mature community in Oregon, some interesting statistics were recently released. Berg

The state revenue forecast shows LO may not be all that different from Oregon as a whole. Prior administrations were constantly telling us LO needed more young families with children, and they were willing to “tax and spend” any amount under this mantra. The recent data shows that Oregon overall is maturing.

It turns out that the K-12 school age population in Oregon seems to be flat, like Lake Oswego, while the 65-plus population has the highest growth rate in the state. Sound very familiar? Citizens were being fed talking points to justify a political agenda rather than the facts. Those talking points justified millions in wasted expenditures for visionary projects (WEB, Foothills, streetcar, etc). In what appeared to be a “quid pro quo” some LOSD board members supported these expenditures.

Is a redirection in resources and services required? It’s something I have been mentioning in columns for years. We spend precious little on seniors in LO, despite millions in subsidies for optional programs. That’s just not sustainable given the population demographics in our fair city.

LO spends about $1.2 million a year on the adult community center. That is less than the subsidy for recreation programs alone and it’s less than 2 percent of the budget for LOSD. It’s hard to see any equity for seniors in those figures, especially as our senior population grows. We just seem to spend too much in certain areas with little toward the true growth population in Lake Oswego.

This past budget committee was informed that the “meals on wheels” program was hit by a $6,000 reduction in funding (“sequestration”). No matter your political views, that just seems unfair in a great city like Lake Oswego. CBC voted unanimously to make up for those funds in the new budget, but we need to do much more, as this group grows in terms of our population. It can’t be done with flat revenues unless we redirect our current funding priorities. It’s time the council begins to look at actual demographics five, seven and 10 years out. Then incorporate facts with the growing needs of our mature citizens. It needs to be done contemporaneous with the funding priorities on streets, parks and public safety. It’s long overdue and the new council has a unique opportunity to set the right course.

Most of us have assumed our city had been spending taxpayer funds on the right areas as we grow older. Yet residents often mention to me that areas aren’t friendly for seniors or wheelchairs on the westside. That’s just one area missing the mark in our infrastructure efforts as we improve streets.

It turns out Lake Oswego may not be all that different in its demographic trends and it’s time our elected officials and new city manager start looking at the real demographics when making their resource and funding decisions. That will ensure we preserve our community character for the actual (maturing) population, and not some fictitious “ghost” population of special interests.

Feel free to visit COLA LO at commonsenselo.blogspot or commonsenselo.org.

Dave Berg is a 22-year resident of Lake Oswego, chairman of the Lake Oswego Budget Committee and a board member of COLA LO.



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