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Gresham tax levy has failed

But mayor not giving up yet


The property tax levy to fund Gresham police, fire and parks has failed, but the vote was close, with 1.3 percent and only 157 votes difference as of the morning of Thursday, May 22. Final results are due Thursday at 4:30 p.m., after press deadline.

The gap narrowed from early returns, posted just after 8 p.m. at the Multnomah County Elections office website Monday, showing the levy was trailing by less than a 5 percent margin with a difference of 338 votes.

Bemis was not deterred as he waited for results Tuesday night with staff, friends and family at Boccellis Ristorante, his restaurant in downtown Gresham. He said late returns could turn the tide and make all the difference — he was not giving up hope.

“I think it’s going to be a long night and it’s pretty close as we always figured it would be,” he said.

By Thursday morning, he still hadn’t given up hope and released the following statement:

“Like everyone, we are awaiting the final results of the election. While we are behind it is not impossible to still win the election. The budget committee will meet next week and the city manager will propose his budget. Over the next month or two the City Council will be looking at all options.”

The current flat tax of $7.50 per person to fund fire, police and parks expires June 30.

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, Bemis said recently.

Portland’s property tax rate is about twice that of Gresham’s, but Gresham is getting Portland-size problems and is second in the state only to Portland in terms of violent crime.

With Gresham’s population on the rise and drastic cuts to city staff the last few years, without the flat tax the city would lose the equivalent of about 20 police officers, two fire stations and about a third of the parks maintenance crew, according to the city website.