Some members raise concern fee system is unfair

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - In order to cover the costs of the on-gong levee accreditation process, members of the Scappoose Drainage Improvement District will be paying $198.15 per tax lot this year ontop of the assessment tax they already pay.Members of the Scappoose Drainage Improvement Company voted Monday, July 8, to adopt a new Landowner’s Notice that will charge SDIC members an annual fee in order to fund maintenance and accreditation for Scappoose’s levee.

The result of the vote will allow the SDIC to divide half of its annual budget evenly among tax lots within the drainage district. Under this year’s SDIC budget, owners will pay $198.15 per tax lot. The remainder of the budget will be paid through member assessments—based on a calculation of each member’s benefits received from the dike. That cost is determined through the evaluation of the amount of acres on each tax lot as well as the lot’s elevation, of which there are five categories.

In previous years, the SDIC budget was accounted for entirely on member assessments.

Members on tax lots of 1 acre or less were each given a single vote at the Monday meeting, while members on larger tax lots were allowed a vote for each acre on their property. Some SDIC members complained the voting process was unfair since members with more acreage on a single lot were allowed more votes, yet pay the same annual tax lot fee as those with smaller properties.

“I have a feeling that somehow the burden is being shifted to the little guy more and more,” said Rick Weber, teacher at Warren Elementary and member of the SDIC. “As a land owner, I’m highly worried about plummeting value of property and I’m worried about increased costs and future maintenance needs on the dike.”

Marie Gadotti, the drainage improvement company’s board president, said that, depending on size, owners of larger properties will be spending a lot more on assessments, somewhat balancing the scale for those who own small tax lots and still pay this year’s flat $198.15 fee per tax lot.

“We can never be equitable across the board,” she said.

“If you look at the evaluation of the homes we’re protecting, it’s a pretty good deal,” she said. “We don’t need flood insurance right now. We want to keep it that way.”

SDIC members also voted unanimously to approve a new digital mapping system to more accurately represent and evaluate all tax lots included in SDIC lands.

The need for the SDIC to accredit the Scappoose levee that protects against the Multnomah Channel’s waters comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Since the flooding of New Orleans during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, FEMA has required levee administrators around the nation to re-certify their dikes and ensure they meet a new set of standards. Although there is no deadline for accreditation, if the levee is not certified, all properties within the drainage district will be federally reclassified as existing in a flood zone.

If reclassified as a flood zone, property owners would experience property devaluations and any damaged property would have to be rebuilt to revised flood-zone standards. Members would also be required to buy expensive flood insurance, which likely wouldn’t be granted to anyone residing in a flood zone.

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