OSU says it can’t just turn over funds to city to pay for police

2013-07-17T06:00:00Z 2013-07-17T11:56:31Z OSU says it can’t just turn over funds to city to pay for policeBy JAMES DAY, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times

Sparks continued to fly a day after the Corvallis City Council included a bill to Oregon State University for police services in a property tax levy councilors approved Monday night for the November ballot.

One of the pieces of the $3.3 million-a-year package calls for the addition of three police officers; a fourth officer’s hiring is contingent on OSU bearing the cost, which is about $100,000.

“It is our legal opinion that we cannot just take state funds intended for higher education and give them to another public entity,” said Steve Clark, the OSU vice president for marketing and university relations, said Tuesday.

Councilors, who voted 7-2 to approve the police officer amendment, expressed concerns that the university is not paying its fair share for police service that stems from OSU enrollment growth.

“My constituents say ‘why are we paying the bill?’ ” Ward 7 Councilor Bruce Sorte said during Monday’s debate. “ I don’t know how else to do this.”

“This sends a message,” added Ward 5 Councilor Mike Beilstein.

Clark said “he was surprised and disappointed” by the council action, and that it was the wrong message to send.

“For councilors to say that they need to get our attention is a misstatement,” he said. “No one has to get our attention. We are already involved with our neighbors and city partners. It’s incumbent on the City Council and the university to sit down and talk about what the council had in mind. Without that opportunity, we’re working in the dark.”

Clark noted that the university is in the process of increasing staffing in its student conduct office to deal with problems that arise from off-campus behavior.

Neighborhood livability has been one of the key challenges of the Collaboration Corvallis project, which has been working for more than a year on neighborhood concerns.

City Manager Jim Patterson called Clark after Monday’s vote to advise him of the situation, and the two plan further conversations.

“But we have not been contacted, to my knowledge, by one city councilor,” Clark said. “We need to sit down and understand how this process fits in with the collaboration and how the interests of the city and the university can be served.”

Patterson agreed that the “surprise” factor was unfortunate.

“We agreed early on (in the collaboration) that we would do everything we could not to surprise each other,” said Patterson. “How it came about (in the levy) might be a surprise, but I don’t think that it would be news to anyone that the city and OSU have been in conversations about public safety. We knew we would have to tackle some serious issues and complex stuff. We need to have a good relationship, but these things take time. Sometimes you have bumps in the road, and you have to work through it.”

At least one councilor agreed with Clark’s take on the levy action.

“It’s inappropriate to have a conversation with the university via a levy,” said Ward 4 Councilor Dan Brown, whose district surrounds the OSU campus.

Brown and Ward 6 Councilor Joel Hirsch cast the no votes on the amendment, which was one of more than a dozen that were proposed and debated during the meeting, which lasted 3 hours and 39 minutes.

The levy, if approved by the voters, would tax property owners approximately 82 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. It renews and expands on the 45-cent levy that expires June 30, 2014.

A homeowner with a house valued at $300,000 would pay $245 a year after being assessed $135 under the expiring levy.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(24) Comments

  1. skeptic
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    skeptic - August 15, 2013 2:30 pm
    This whole mess with OSU is a distraction to the real issue. The city council is fiscally irresponsible and has no intention of ever changing. They extorted a levy in 2011 and now they are doubling down. We should have said no to their tactics two years ago and we should say no again.
    In a letter to the editor on May 2, 2011 council members indicated that "the Council will practice strict fiscal responsibility if levy is passed." They went on to say that "The council has adopted a specific goal toward the creation of a fiscally sustainable budget. This means attempting to better align spending with available revenue." Really!??!?!?! LIARS!!!!!!!!! You did absolutely nothing to create a fiscally sustainable budget. You are now asking for twice as much to buy extra stuff you want and don't need. If we say yes to this, expect another double down in three years.
  2. Patrick9876
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    Patrick9876 - July 18, 2013 2:56 pm
    I wonder if some of the issue is the 5 unrelated people per household. Essentially, single family dwellings were designed for a family which usually includes 2 adults and 2 kids (or so). And the parking, fire, and police protection that that entails. With 5 unrelated adults, we are not getting either parking needed nor the fire/police. On top of that, we now have students living in unsafe basements and garages. I think Corvallis (the city of) needs to get this under control. Disallow the 5 unrelated - make it 3 - even 4. Change the zoning to allow 5 bedroom apartments - but treat them that way - with more taxes to accommodate more police. Even the 5 bedroom homes should require more than 2 parking places - most Timberhill monstrosities have more parking than for 2 cars. Parking, police, fire. Those need to be dealt with.
  3. TruthIs
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    TruthIs - July 17, 2013 8:21 pm
    @TheRealJules - Entities can enter into contracts for purposes other than your simplistic version of purchasing goods or services that one entity "wishes to receive". In general, an entity can enter into a contract with another entity for any reason upon which both agree. The purpose of the contract is to state what constitutes performance of the contract by both entities, including what both entities agree to exchange in performance of the contract.

    Absent any specific state laws to the contrary, which no one has put in evidence at this point, OSU can contract to compensate the City to mitigate the measurable impacts of OSU's business plans on the City in exchange for a verifiable commitment by the City to hire some number of police officers.
  4. TruthIs
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    TruthIs - July 17, 2013 8:04 pm
    @TheRealJules - I'm not sure who you are claiming is disingenous, but I'll clarify my comments:

    1) With regard to the police services, you are just repeating my comment that we pay for police services on something other than a consumption basis because we cannot predict how and when we may need them. In this case, we can attribute the basis of a significantly greater need to OSU's impact on the city and therefore have a well-established and long-accepted basis for levying fees on them that can't be recovered through taxing their valuable property.

    2) It is OSU that doesn't pay taxes. As far as I've been able to discover, it has yet to be put into evidence in City deliberations whether the tax revenues OSU "adds" to City coffers by virtue of attracting students, faculty and others who raise the value of real estate, pay utilities, etc., covers the cost of their impacts.

    3) Can't argue with you. Unfortunately, auditors with the Secretary of State earlier this year reported that they found it difficult to determine where the money goes. From that it seems quite fair to say we really don't know whether students are getting adequate value for their money (about 70% of instructional costs), or whether taxpayers are getting appropriate value for the roughly 7% of university funding we pay.
  5. TheRealJules
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    TheRealJules - July 17, 2013 4:10 pm
    "There is nothing preventing the University from entering into a contract (with the City) to provide for police support. "

    Other than the University already has police support, both through campus security and the state police. What OSU is being expected to pay for is not police support for OSU, the expectation is that OSU pay for city police to patrol the city streets.

    "Entities enter into contracts and pay for services that they wish to receive."

    Since OSU would receive no services from this payment, and a contract requires not just payment but something in return, it wouldn't be a very good contract. And contracts don't pop into existence because one party says "pay us". No, I don't think "shutting up the whiners who think OSU is the cause of every problem the city has" is receiving something in return for payments.
  6. TheRealJules
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    TheRealJules - July 17, 2013 4:04 pm
    Who is disingenuous here? Let's see...

    "Most of us never "use" police services, " Everyone benefits from police services. The fact that your house wasn't broken into yesterday is thanks in very large part to law enforcement's presence. If there were no cops to arrest the bad guys, why would bad guys hesitate to run free?

    "Especially since they don't pay taxes ..." College students pay rent, and rent includes property taxes. College students pay utility bills, and our water bills have taxes irrelevant to the provision of water included. College students who live on campus are policed by the state police.

    "although OSU is a "non-profit", they generate a lot of revenue" Wow. Then they don't need the taxpayer funding, do they. Where does this mysterious "revenue" go?

  7. TruthIs
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    TruthIs - July 17, 2013 3:26 pm
    Jim, here's some numbers that you could consider reporting that might be easy for people to grasp, if they exist.

    OSU has been instrumental in proposing the City absorb the cost of OSU failing to create appropriately located new parking on campus by creating a ring of parking districts. (That also includes impacts on the rest of us citizens who don't have access to those parking permits because we live elsewhere in town even though we all pay to maintain the public streets).

    So what would be the cost of individual permits, the net revenue from permits and enforcement. And what would be the cost to the city of administering the districts, including the personnel and supply costs for selling permits, and hiring traffic enforcement personnel to patrol the districts?

    The total of the costs to administer and patrol the districts is a simple measure of the costs to Corvallis that OSU is externalizing on the City every year by not mitigating its impact by, say, building a parking garage on campus where Snell Hall now stands to at least make up for the MU parking lot that OSU eliminated for the "Experience" building and the parking lot behind McNary Hall they eliminated to build a dorm, several hundred parking spaces total.
  8. TruthIs
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    TruthIs - July 17, 2013 3:08 pm
    @dancer - Unfortunately your understanding, or at least your presentation of it, is disingenuine. Public services we directly consume are not the only public services we use and for which we have to pay. Most of us never "use" police services, but we all pay for those services an amount that represents our "share" of the services if they were distributed in proportion to likely consumption of them.

    Because of OSU's business plans has supposedly raised the need for police services by a significant amount, and we can identify OSU as having not mitigated the impact on the community accordingly, it is quite appropriate to bill them for the significant additional services we can directly attribute to their impact. Especially since they don't pay taxes and therefore wouldn't absorb any of the cost through taxes. And don't kid yourself, although OSU is a "non-profit", they generate a lot of revenue that isn't going to their primary obligation under the Morrell Act of educating students.

    The real problem is that our inadequate City Council has not properly approached the question of how to enforce OSU's obligation to mitigate its impacts on the community. And that's not simply a matter of sending a bill or having a non-Collaboration theater that OSU and the City each think they can play to their advantage. That's a matter of getting people involved who understand the whole concept of the obligation to be good neighbors, which starts with minimizing and mitigating impacts. Those are people that neither City Council nor OSU really want involved.

    As to your last question, the answer is quite simple: The taxable real estate base exists regardless of OSU's presence. Due to Measure 5 and a host of consequences of a general anti-tax sentiment, the incremental tax revenues due to the incremental value OSU's presence adds to property valuations are not enough to pay for the cost of OSU's impacts.

    Sequestration at the Federal level has been a wakeup call that has changed thinking and priorities. We know we have problems we have to address, but at the same time we have a chance of breaking out of a cycle where we weren't addressing the right problems in the right way. Perhaps the best solution locally now is to end the non-Collaboration, vote down the levy, let everybody see how they feel about the new reality, and then decide what consequences we need to address and how. At that point, maybe we will put different kinds of people who are better problem solvers on City Council and come up with appropriate approaches for requiring OSU to adapt its plans or otherwise mitigate its impacts on Corvallis.
  9. dancer
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    dancer - July 17, 2013 2:09 pm
    If I understand the request correctly, this is the city asking for payment from OSU for a service that is not for OSU but for the benefit of the city as a whole. Water, sewer, and other city services are provided by Corvallis to OSU, and the university pays for them accordingly. This payment is for a regular police position only indirectly related to OSU, based on increased need for police because the students are here. The officer would not be on campus but would serve in a general way as do the other officers. That's a big difference from providing a service needed directly by OSU, and is fundamentally different.

    Furthermore, the increased number of students and their housing provide substantial added income to the city through real estate taxes. Why shouldn't that money be used to pay for the officer?
  10. TaxMaverick
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    TaxMaverick - July 17, 2013 12:17 pm
    These new police positions are probably earmarked for members of Jon Sassaman’s church.

    It’s like Gabe Sapp: Member of the Lowther clan, and I’m sure corresponding religious sect. Whisked into the premium K-9 position -- while outsiders complain about not being considered for jobs at the Police Department.

    Gabe Sapp was of course also instantly declared the victim when he got punched in response to grabbing a football player’s arm -- according to one version of events.

    Zero-fault, assault-victim Sapp (before becoming a police officer):


    K-9 officer Sapp:

  11. JimDay Staff
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    JimDay - July 17, 2013 11:59 am
    Greetings. Jim Day here. Thanks for the comments and for reading my story. Curious One is absolutely correct. It was intended to read $1,000 in assessed value. Story is now fixed.

    Keep reading!

  12. Kenny D
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    Kenny D - July 17, 2013 10:32 am
  13. CorvallisUberAlles
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    CorvallisUberAlles - July 17, 2013 10:12 am
    This is no way to form a partnership, each side buffaloing each other and the public. Why are we adding services when we can't maintain the ones we have? Period. How dangerous is Corvallis? The biggest issues are with students getting drunk. I say have the OLC enforce laws they have in regard to over serving and require bars to have increased private security during peak hours. Or consider contracting with a private security company Friday and Saturday nights in prime trouble areas (rather than funding full positions, we don’t need fully trained officers to babysit drunk college kids). They likely don’t even need firearms. Other City’s have lesser trained/lower cost enforcement personal that respond to low level crime and take reports (car break in’s, shop lifting etc.) Besides most likely the increase in OSU enrolment will be from international students - these students are not generally a legal issue. They have too much to loose and do not want to embarrass their families/countries and many have religious tenets against drinking. Once Corvallis shows me this HUGE crime problem then I may want to pay more in taxes, but really? Do we really want to live in a heavily policed Corvallis? Not me.
  14. Kilgore Trout
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    Kilgore Trout - July 17, 2013 7:53 am
    Well stated.
  15. Kilgore Trout
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    Kilgore Trout - July 17, 2013 7:21 am
    PS. "Funds intended for higher education" already are used to pay to haul the trash, keep the lights on, natural gas for heat, provide clean water and sewer, TV cable, internet, and yes buy newspapers, all because it's part of the overall picture.
  16. baxter
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    baxter - July 17, 2013 7:16 am
    Mr. Clark is not a very well-informed representative of the university. Or he is deceptive and disingenuous. Or he thinks citizens of Corvallis are real dummies. But what should we expect? Afterall, he is the University's vice President for Marketing and University Relations.

    For starters, the University pays the City (and others) for all sorts of services it receives. The University already pays the City for water and sewer service. They also pay the City for transit service. And I am willing to bet they pay for building permits. They probably pay for other services received.

    There is nothing preventing the University from entering into a contract (with the City) to provide for police support. The university simply doesn't WANT to pay for police services. And since they don't want to, the university's attorney will, of course, tell them they don't have to.

    Mr. Clarks statement that the university can't just "turn over" money is an attempt to change the discussion. Of course, NO entity will just "turn over" money. Entities enter into contracts and pay for services that they wish to receive.

    The University is being exceedingly uncooperative, disingenuous and stingy. And if the University Presiddent was smart, he would terminate Clark or at least sit him on the sidelines. He fumbles much too often.

    And what is this nonsense about turning over money INTENDED FOR EDUCATION to something as silly as police protection when they turn over this same money for ...lets see....coaches, assistant coaches, and only the informed know what else. Mr. Clark = disingenuous.

    If the university wanted to cooperate with the City and fund additional police personnel, they could do so. A mechanism could be found if they wanted to.
  17. Kilgore Trout
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    Kilgore Trout - July 17, 2013 6:55 am
    Does the city have a legal obligation to provide fire protection to the University? Just because it has done so for many decades does not mean it necessarily must do so.

    Note: The university paid for fire services on a per call basis about 25 years ago. Each response was billed on an agreed upon rate, something like $500 per call. Then, the industrial building burned, and every fire department in the area was needed to contain the fire. The physical plant office was saved, but the industrial building was a full loss. The bill was $62K, I suspect the value of the physical plant office saved was several times that. OSU balked but paid the bill, then ceased payments. So, there is a precedent on the matter.

    Does the city have a legal obligation to approve building permits for the University? To allow new water and sewer connections?
  18. Kilgore Trout
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    Kilgore Trout - July 17, 2013 6:43 am
    Well stated.
  19. Marvin McConoughey
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    Marvin McConoughey - July 16, 2013 11:22 pm
    It is reasonable for OSU to pay its fair share of local police costs. The university's Office of Student Conduct has been a notable failure in bringing about a consistent level of good student conduct. Further, the university has long pressed the city to adopt ordinances and policies intended to favor students.

    The university already obtains millions of dollars worth of property tax exemption by reason of its nominal non-profit status. Some cost sharing in policing is long overdue and will help the overburdened local law enforcement men and women.
  20. curious one
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    curious one - July 16, 2013 10:04 pm
    Did the reporter catch his mistake: "82 cents per $100,000 of valuation?

    Can't just turn money over to the city? Uh, how long have you been taking fees from students and turning it over to the football group?
  21. TaxMaverick
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    TaxMaverick - July 16, 2013 8:50 pm
    The city council and police department is made up of Christians who want money to force their religion on, and not really protect, people who want nothing to do with their religion.

    Isn't Bruce Sorte Diana Simpson's Christian endorsee, who won by a two-to-one margin in her magic election?

    (Simpson's magic election is the one where her health-and-safety levy passed by an identical two-to-one margin.)

    Simpson's endorsement of Sorte:


    Sorte's victory:


    Health-and-safety levy victory:

  22. TruthIs
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    TruthIs - July 16, 2013 7:17 pm
    Your comment is typical of the low-information people in this town who obviously don't know much about the games both Council and OSU play for public effect.
  23. TruthIs
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    TruthIs - July 16, 2013 6:36 pm
    “For councilors to say that they need to get our attention is a misstatement,” he said. “No one has to get our attention. We are already involved with our neighbors and city partners.

    “It’s incumbent on the City Council and the university to sit down and talk about what the council had in mind. Without that opportunity we’re working in the dark.”

    OSU has been arrogant in its dealings with the town and obviously Mr. Clark's comments here document that.
  24. YaRight
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    YaRight - July 16, 2013 6:32 pm
    “This sends a message,” added Ward 5 Councilor Mike Beilstein.

    The hollowness, lowness of that message, is bound to speed up things currently being done, and cause the matter to be more completely addressed. The vindication of radicals.
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