Forum looks at upcoming state legislative issues

City representatives from Canby, Lake Oswego, Oregon City, Gladstone, Tualatin and West Linn attended City Hall Week on Sept. 19 at West Linn City Hall. Also in attendance were Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, and Metro Councilor and House District 37 candidate Carl Hosticka.

The League of Oregon Cities hosted the event in an effort to discuss priority city issues before the 2013 legislative session. The League is formed by an intergovernmental agreement among all of Oregon’s 242 incorporated cities.

Cities across the state designed last week as “City Hall Week.” Forums were slated for 21 host cities across the state.

City officials, legislators, candidates, civic and business leaders, citizens and other local officials were invited to the event.

Chris Flick, with the League of Oregon Cities, presented five upcoming legislative issues revolving around finance reform, land use reform, resetting assessed value at sale, jobs and economic development, and renewal of the 9-1-1 tax.

The League of Oregon Cities is proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would allow voters to consider local option levies outside of compression. It would also lengthen the duration of a levy to a maximum of 10 years, compared to the current maximum of five years. Cities currently suffering under compression are experiencing an inequity in paying taxes and loss of total collectible taxes.

“Our biggest hurdle is explaining this concisely to voters,” Flick said.

“It’s not good for a democracy to have a tax system not understood by its citizens,” Canby City Councilor Greg Parker said.

This proposed amendment may appear on 2014 ballots.

Another recommended legislative change is to move to a state-funded program to forecast population. Currently, cities are mandated to use population forecasts to update their comprehensive plans, which can be timely and expensive for smaller cities. Under the proposed legislation, the population forecasts would be updated every four years and be provided by the Population Research Center at Portland State University.

Another proposed state constitutional amendment would reset a property’s assessed value to its real market value whenever the property is sold or there is new construction. The goal is to restore equity by recalibrating taxes based on the value of the property at the time of sale.

West Linn Mayor John Kovash expressed concern about a long-time homeowner paying much less in taxes then a new neighbor who just moved in.

There are 17 other states in the U.S. that have property tax limitations similar to Oregon’s. However, 15 of them already readjust property taxes at the time of sale.

To boost jobs and economic development the League of Oregon Cities is supporting investment in three Oregon Business Development Department requests. One is $10 million to recapitalize loan funding for gap financing to clean up industrial sits. The second is $25 million to provide funding to cities to get industrial sites “shovel” ready for development. The third is $15 million of funding incentives to reuse or redevelop existing industrial land.

The final topic of discussion was expanding the 9-1-1 emergency services tax, which expires in 2014. The current 75 cent tax is based off of land lines and regular cellphones, however, with more and more people switching to voiceover Internet protocol and prepaid cellular packages, less tax money is being brought in. The League is looking for ways to incorporate all phone options into the 9-1-1 tax.

According to the city’s website, “As city governments face increasing fiscal pressures they would like greater flexibility to manage their affairs, City Hall Week represents a proactive approach to raising awareness of these critical issues.”

For more information on the League of Oregon Cities and its legislative priorities, visit

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