EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Facing a $6 million budget gap and the possibility of major service cuts, the City of Eugene is now considering the idea of a city service fee to help its funding picture.
The fee is one of four strategies that Eugene's City Manager Jon Ruiz introduced to the Eugene City Council at a Monday, December 10, work session.
Ruiz says first Eugene needs to expand its property tax base by landing more businesses. Second, the city needs to continue footprint reductions, otherwise known as finding ways to maintain city services at lower costs. Third, transition funding for parks services to the stormwater fee, which would free up money to maintain other community services.
The fourth strategy is the proposed city service fee.
The city has cut its general fund budget by $24 million, about 20 percent, in the last four years. Ruiz says back in fiscal year 2003-04, the city's estimated cost increases were more than 6 percent per year. Today, Ruiz says the cost increase per year is down to 0.6 percent.
If the city does nothing though, reserves will be gone by 2015 and major cuts will have to be made.
"We're just at the point now we're going to have to make some decisions as a community. Do we want to maintain some of these services or not?” says Ruiz.
Ruiz says the goal of raising new revenue through a city service fee is to just maintain what services Eugene already offers now, not add new ones.
The latest budget gap is something the city says it can't cut its way out of without affecting major services. Some possible cuts the city may evaluate include closing a community pool, cutting the HAZMAT team, closing the Eugene Public Library's main branch for one day of the week, rolling brownouts and closing a fire station among dozens of other ideas.
The proposed city service fee would be a monthly bill, tacked on to Eugene residents' EWEB bill.
At a maximum, Ruiz says the fee could be as high as $10 a month. However, it could be less.
The fee is the only money measure that the City of Eugene is considering, thanks to information gleaned from a recent poll.
"What the community said was that they're not particularly supportive of things like a businesses license fee or an income tax. What they have told us in very recent polling by a pretty nice majority is that they would be willing to support a modest monthly fee, modest set at up to $10 per month to maintain some of these services, quality of life services,” says Ruiz.
Ruiz is recommending that the fee goes to a public vote. Over the next month, the City Manager's staff will investigate how much money will be raised by the fee under varying amounts.
Ultimately, the Eugene City Council will decide whether or not to move forward with the fee. If they choose to go for it, councilors would likely put it on a ballot. If that's the case, they'll have to finalize a decision by February 13, 2013.
Eugene City Council will get more information about the potential service fee at a work session on January 14, 2013.