EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Eugene voters will face another financial decision in May as Eugene City Council finalized plans Wednesday to put a proposed “city service” fee on the ballot.
Councilors voted 6 to 2 to put the proposed city service fee on the ballot with councilors Mike Clark and Betty Taylor voting against it.
The Eugene City Manager’s office has proposed the fee as a way of covering a $6-million budget gap. The fee could raise about $5.3-million to close the upcoming budget gap, which begins in July 2013.
If voters pass the fee, the city would charge up to $10 a month on each residential dwelling, Eugene 4J and Bethel school. Non-residential properties or businesses would pay up to $30 a month.
If voters turn it down, the city manager’s office will recommend reductions to the following services:
--Fire company at Eugene Fire Station #2 (Whiteaker) -- $0.7 million
--Eugene Police investigations -- $0.4 million
--Second Cahoots van -- $0.3 million
--Teen Court program -- $0.1 million
--Human Service Commission discretionary funding -- $0.5 million
--Looking Glass’ “Station 7” Youth Shelter -- $0.1 million
--Branch Library at Sheldon -- $0.3 million
--Branch Library at Bethel -- $0.3 million
--Closing the downtown Eugene library one day per week – $0.5 million
--Mothballing the Sheldon Pool -- $0.4 million
--Equity, human rights, neighborhoods and sustainability programs -- $0.8 million
--Recreation programs and services -- $0.3
--Neighborhood Park Restrooms -- $0.1
--Parks Maintenance -- $0.5 million
Many city leaders emphasized that Eugene has tightened its belt in the past five years. The city has cut 100 positions and $24-million from its $125-million general fund budget in the last five fiscal cycles.
“We've cinched-up our belt, we know you have too, and we're really trying too,” said Mayor Kitty Piercy.
“The things that we're trying to preserve are things that we think are very important to the community and they have told us that,” said Piercy.
Those who voted against the city service fee believe there is more to be cut, including Councilor Mike Clark.
“We have the option of selling assets, we have things like Laurelwood Golf Course that loses money that we own and operate that I am less certain that we should in this environment, so you know there are other options,” said Clark.
In response, Councilor Alan Zelenka said that the fee is truly the city’s last resort, pointing to a recent poll the city comissioned. The poll showed people preferred a city service fee almost 2 votes to 1 over an income tax.
Mayor Kitty Piercy says alongside the fee, the city continues trying to rope new businesses in to expand the city’s tax base and revenues.
“I ask the public to continue to support the services we have and we'll continue to try to raise more funds to put into the pot as well through economic development,” said Piercy.
Earlier this week, Lane County announced it would pursue a 55 cent, 5-year levy to raise money for the jail and juvenile detention. Mayor Piercy says she sees the fee as a chance to maintain “the rest of the system.”
"What we're asking in terms of a city service fee is trying to put some of the other pieces of the system, or at least not trying to lose more pieces of that system which would include the human services, prevention, intervention, it would include things that make it so people can have a safe and decent life,” said Piercy.
If it passes, councilors would be able to change the fee yearly, either up or down as long as they’re under the set “cap.” The fee would also have an annual audit through a citizen oversight panel. The fee would last at least five years. At the five year anniversary, councilors could repeal it or keep it going. It’s still unclear as to who will collect it. The city of Eugene is attempting to contract with EWEB to gather the fee.