The Corvallis City Council passed a series of motions Monday night that starts the process for putting a pair of revenue-raising measures on upcoming election ballots.
First, councilors unanimously passed a motion ending consideration of a sales tax and committing themselves to a renewal of the local option property tax levy that expires June 30, 2019.
Councilors must decide how much revenue to seek and what services to try to fund by next spring, with the goal of placing the levy renewal on the November 2018 ballot. The current levy, which raises approximately $3.5 million per year, charges property owners 82 cents per $1,000 of assessed value or $240 per year for property assessed at $300,000.
The levy renewal likely will produce a significantly higher level of funding than the current $3.5 million, and it appears that public safety and parks maintenance will be the beneficiaries of the additional funds.
Councilors also voted unanimously — and with virtually no comment — to direct staff to develop plans for a 911 service district that would tax property owners in an effort to beef up the emergency response dispatch network that the Benton County law enforcement and fire agencies all share. The target date for an election would be either May or November of 2019. No dollar figure has been set, but its seems likely that it will be more than $1 million, with the funds paying for current staff and operations as well as any new hires or new equipment.
In a third action, a motion putting the council on record that it would not put a general obligation bond on the ballot any sooner than 2020, was narrowly approved. The eight councilors present split 4-4, with Mayor Biff Traber breaking the tie in only his second vote since taking office in January 2015.
Bill Glassmire (Ward 7), Mark Page (Ward 8), Penny York (Ward 1) and Hal Brauner (Ward 9) voted in favor of the motion, while Charlyn Ellis (Ward 5), Hyatt Lytle (Ward 3), Nancy Wyse (Ward 6) and Barbara Bull (Ward 4) voted no. Roen Hogg (Ward 2) was absent.
Opponents expressed concern that the motion would tie the hands of future councils. The city's current bond, which was approved by voters in 2001 to pay for open space and park land acquisitions, also expires June 30, 2019. It levies 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
In other council action:
• York announced that she is resigning her leadership position as council vice president. York, who distributed a letter explaining her resignation at the meeting, cited a need to “have someone take over as VP who might help with leadership in the next term” and to have time for family and personal interests.
York still plans to finish her third term on the council; it expires at the end of 2018. The council is tentatively set to vote on her successor at its Dec. 18 meeting.
• Councilors voted unanimously to move forward with the strategic operational plan that was developed by City Manager Mark Shepard. Shepard introduced the strategic operational plan concept in December 2016. He described it as a tool to “establish policy direction and priorities for the delivery of services and programs.” The SOP was designed to replace the previous goal-setting process councilors undertook at the start of their two-year terms.
The first plan was presented at a March 23 work session, with a revised version reviewed at a May 18 work session. Further discussions on the plan were then put on hold while councilors held in-depth discussions on their priorities. Shepard emphasized that the SOP is a living document that will be consistently reviewed, starting with the first quarter of next year.