EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – Two former Eugene City Councilors are stepping up in opposition to a proposed city service fee that Eugene voters will decide on in May.
Former councilors Bonny Bettman McCornack and Paul Nicholson have launched a new political action committee to oppose the proposed service fee.
The fee would charge residential dwellings up to $10 a month and businesses up to $30 a month. The Eugene City Manager has proposed the fee as a way to cover a 5.3 million dollar budget gap. In February 2013, Eugene city councilors voted to place the fee on the ballot.
The political action committee (PAC) that's opposing the fee calls itself “Citzens for Truth, Justice and the American Way.” Bettman McCornack and Nicholson are leading the PAC, saying they disagree with several elements of the fee.
First, both disagree with the fee being a “flat rate” for everyone, saying the rich should not have to pay the same amount as the poor.
"The city is threatening essentially to withhold all the most essential services in order to gain a favorable vote," said Nicholson.
Also, the PAC believes the fee will likely never be repealed. As the ordiance is written, the fee would be reviewed by a citizen committee every five years. At that point, the fee would either be removed or continued. City Councilors would have to vote to remove the fee. In believing that the fee will likely never be removed, Bettman McCornack and Nicholson believe that the ordinance will likely raise more money than is necessary to cover the city's budget problems. According to Bettman-McCornack, the ordinance is written so that excess funds could potentially be saved for general fund use, something she disagrees with.
Bettman McCornack also believes there is more to be cut.
"The city is forcing people to vote to restore services that should already be paid for with their taxes. And yet they go ahead and spending millions of dollars of city money on things that are not essential services,” said Bettman McCornack.
Meanwhile, Eugene City Councilor Claire Syrett is one of the six councilors that voted to support the fee. Syrett says as a member of the last six budget processes, she has seen first hand that the city has renegotiated cheaper contracts, cut jobs through attrition, and cut most non-essential services.
"While it's not a great option to ask citizens to pay more in taxes or fees, it seemed like the least worst option,” said Syrett.
“I am hoping we can keep the cap well below 10 dollars a resident, but we are asking folks to help us make this tough decision, to come together to keep our city the vibrant place that we appreciate and want to live,” said Syrett.
If the city service fee doesn't pass, the city will cut about 5.3 million dollars in services including the following:
--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
The city service fee will go up for a vote on May 21st, 2013. Before that, a voters pamphlet with arguments on both sides will hit voters' mailboxes.