Council reverses requirement from July vote on levy
Reversing a decision from last month, the Corvallis City Council voted unanimously Tuesday at a hastily called meeting to remove an item from its proposed tax levy that required Oregon State University to pay for a city police officer.
Councilors had voted 7-2 on July 15 to include the OSU mandate because of concerns that the university was not paying its fair share for neighborhood livability issues that stem from enrollment growth.
But after hearing Monday morning from a group of OSU administrators, including President Ed Ray and vice president for marketing and university relations Steve Clark, councilors concluded that the steps the university has taken eliminated the need to include the officer requirement in the levy.
Steps outlined by the university at the meeting, which Ward 9 Councilor Hal Brauner described as “intense,” included the expansion of the student conduct office to monitor off-campus conduct and additional staff to deal with fraternities and sororities.
Mayor Julie Manning called the emergency council session because of the tight deadlines required to put the levy on the November ballot.
The three full-time positions and two graduate assistants represent an expenditure of $300,000, according to Clark.
“In July I wasn’t aware it (the OSU effort) was there, and now we have the information,” said Ward 8 Councilor Biff Traber, who had seconded the motion to charge OSU at the July 15 meeting.
“Now I recognize the steps that OSU has made.”
Yet the information on the student conduct office hires was not new.
The Gazette-Times was advised of the plan and published a front-page story Jan. 13 noting the proposed hires and the new off-campus responsibilities, which stemmed from recommendations made by the Collaboration
Corvallis’ neighborhood livability workgroup.
OSU did not release information to the public regarding the Greek life position, which was filled July 15.
“Everyone’s doing their best, but we have to do better to keep the community and the council informed on everything we are doing in the collaboration,” Clark said.
Ward 6 Councilor Joel Hirsch and Ward 4 Council Dan Brown on Tuesday repeated their earlier votes against the OSU requirement.
Six other councilors, Penny York (Ward 1), Roen Hogg (Ward 2), Richard Hervey (Ward 3), Mike Beilstein (Ward 5), Traber and Brauner, all changed their votes from the July 15 meeting. Ward 7 Councilor Bruce Sorte, who initiated the motion to charge OSU, was not present Tuesday.
Despite voting to remove the OSU requirement, Beilstein used strong language to raise concerns about the OSU’s financial responsibilities to the city.
“OSU is not a bad partner,” he said, “but the rapid expansion of OSU is creating fiscal problems and OSU is not recognizing that. I’m very dissatisfied at OSU’s response.”
Seven members of the public spoke during visitor time, with three of them, Kerry McFall, Herb Heublein and Griff Jay noting continuing problems with loud parties and other neighborhood livability issues.
The visitors also expressed concerns whether the new OSU hires would be as effective at solving the problems as uniformed police officers on the streets.
The five-year levy would charge property owners about 82 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $245 a year for the owner of a house valued at $300,000. It would renew and expand upon the levy that expires June 30, 2014.
Because the proposed OSU contribution (about $100,000) would have added a fourth officer to the three that the levy would fund, Tuesday’s change has no impact on the taxpayers.