West Linn inches closer to finalizing bond renewal proposal
Just in time for tax season, West Linn's effort to pass a General Obligation (GO) bond renewal to fund as much as $20 million in city projects will kick into high gear Monday, Feb. 12 when the City Council votes on a resolution that would set an election for May 15.
The vote comes after several months of discussions and planning regarding what types of projects should be funded by the bond. The process began last fall at the Citizen's Budget Committee level, and from there the council whittled down a list of projects and debated how funds should be divided between those initiatives.
The discussions were aided by the results from two separate surveys — the most recent one taking place in December and January. That poll painted the picture of a community that was lukewarm on the idea of additional spending on a city that seemed to be in good shape as it was. Still, as the council worked during Jan. 31 and Feb. 5 meetings to finalize ballot language and a list of projects that would be targeted for funding, it remained convinced of the bond's merits.
"As we move forward with the considerations we're looking at, hopefully there's something for everyone in the bond we end up pulling together," Mayor Russ Axelrod said.
The proposal under consideration is not a tax hike; rather, the City proposes to renew an existing bond levy of 42 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value that has been in place since 1998. Such a renewal is estimated to generate between $15-$20 million over the course of about 21 years.
In a "ballot title" document that will go to voters in May, the City targeted roads, parks and city facilities as the top priorities for improvements should the bond pass. Specifically, funds would be allocated to "design and construct safe routes to schools, sections of Highway 43, arterials, streets and intersections to address safety, traffic flow and connectivity." The ballot title also promises to "repair and improve aging city-owned properties" and "rehabilitate existing park facilities."
The council spent a considerable amount of time at several recent meetings discussing a rough project list that broke down funding into three categories: transportation projects, parks and city facility improvement.
Yet in the end, City staff emphasized that the council should limit itself to generalized promises in the absence of a complete financial picture.
"Try to keep the list down with scalable projects that can be scaled up (with more funding)," Finance Director Lauren Breithaupt said. "So if we do end up getting $20 million, that's great ... but if we do come in at $18 or $17 million, (make it so) there's not a ton of projects we can't complete because we don't have the funding for it."
City Councilor Bob Martin agreed, and said the council should focus on passing the bond renewal before diving into exact project costs.
"We don't have enough information on costs and the exact amount of money (that is available)," Martin said. "We need to establish priorities and communicate those priorities clearly."
The council reviewed the proposed resolution again during a Feb. 5 meeting, and is set to vote Feb. 12.