Service district may be needed to fund essential services

No new city was formed in Clackamas County in the May 18 primary election, as voters in Government Camp rejected a measure to incorporate the community by a vote of 48-35. In all, 138 registered voters live within the boundaries of the proposed city.

James Howsley, legal representative for the Friends of Government Camp, an organization against the incorporation, hailed the results.

'On behalf of Friends, we are excited to learn that the incorporation of Government Camp did not happen at this point,' Howsley said. 'We think it's premature to form a city, recognizing that there is not a tax base yet to support a new city.'

The measure proposed a tax rate of 76 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on nonexempt property and taxable property to fund urban services, including planning, road development and improvement, police, snow removal and taking over the Government Camp Sanitary District. The city also would maintain improvements to the community that were funded by the tax increment finance (TIF) district, which recently ended.

Christine Roth, Clackamas County Villages and Hamlets liaison, reported that when the county's fiscal year ends this summer, the county will lack funding to pay for snow removal and sidewalk maintenance - two services it has provided since the end of the TIF district.

'It's a pressing deal that they've got to go ahead and do something,' Roth said, adding that the community and county would 'probably' reach an agreement on the issue.

Roth said a transportation district or local improvement district could be formed to fund the two services. Voters would need to approve such a district, which would include a permanent tax base and a board of directors.

A tax base for the district would be a 'relatively small amount,' Roth said.

Howsley reported his group prefers the service district option, adding that many landowners who are not registered in the community would be eligible to have a voice.

'Friends will be supportive of a special service district and currently evaluating some … best avenues to pursue to take care of the TIF improvements,' Howsley said. 'The special service district option would allow second homeowners, who make up a large portion, to serve on the board.'

The tax base for the rejected city would have needed to raise approximately $107,000, according to the economic feasibility analysis required for the incorporation effort. General maintenance was to cost $47,627, enhanced patrols by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office were to cost $16,290, and operating costs were pegged at $43,080.

Maryanne Hill, a supporter of the proposed city, said she was 'disappointed' by the results, but added a future effort to incorporate is still a possibility.

An earlier movement to incorporate the community stalled in 2008 when a petition failed to meet requirements regarding public notice and lacked findings on land use. That petition also included a tax rate of 76 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Voters rejected a proposal to form a village under the county's Villages and Hamlets program in 2006 by a vote of 41 votes in favor and 58 votes against.

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