ward-meeting

Ward 8 Corvallis Councilor Mark Page, left, moderates a ward meeting Thursday night at the Walnut Community Room. Also present were, from left, Police Chief Jon Sassaman, Parks and Recreation Director Karen Emery, Finance Director Nancy Brewer and Public Works Director Mary Steckel.

Corvallis budget and revenue issues drew the most comment Thursday night at a joint ward meeting that featured Ward 7 Councilor Bill Glassmire and Ward 8 Councilor Mark Page.

Nine city officials and department heads also were present at the Walnut Community Room.

The City Council has been working on ways to raise revenue to pay for unmet city needs, a multiyear process that has resulted in a general consensus to try to fund the services in the city’s existing local option property tax levy, provide staffing assistance for the Fire Department and Police Department and beef up parks maintenance.

The preferred method of paying for what could be a $6.7 million package is an extension of the levy, but councilors still must decide if they want to ask the voters for that much money and when to put a measure on the ballot.

One resident, Phil Ermer, expressed concerns that a levy that would raise $6.7 million per year would cost property owners $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, well above the 45 cents of a levy passed in 2011 or the 82 cents of the five-year one that replaced it in 2014.

“Residents have to manage the tightness of their own budgets,” Ermer said. “Not everyone gets raises. The city needs to control expenses and shouldn’t keep doubling and doubling the price of the levies.”

City officials noted that no decision has yet been made regarding the final dollar figure and that given a general obligation bond that paid for park land at 24 cents per $1,000 is retiring the same day as the levy — June 30, 2019 — a levy at $1.06 would essentially maintain the status quo on taxes.

Ermer countered that “the people who voted for the open space bond didn’t think it would be a permanent thing.”

Resident Ed Eppley, meanwhile, noted that he did not personally favor many of the items in the current levy, which pays for library services, the Senior Center, Osborn Aquatic Center as well as police, fire, community development and planning staffers.

City officials and the councilors present encouraged Eppley to attend council meetings where the revenue issue will be discussed and be sure to make his views known to his councilor.

“That’s why we are having this meeting,” said Page, “to hear what you think. The council is not going to making any decisions that aren’t in the best interests of the city as a whole.”

Finance Director Nancy Brewer stressed “the importance of input. The council would much rather hear from more people rather than none.”

City Manager Mark Shepard emphasized that the city “has been looking hard for ways to be more efficient” and that $1.2 million was cut from the current budget without a loss of services.

“What are the services people want, and what are they willing to pay for?” Shepard said.

The council will consider motions to confirm its direction at Monday’s 6 p.m. meeting at the downtown fire station. Shepard noted that the process to determine how much money to raise and how to do it likely will extend into April, giving residents plenty of chances to offer feedback.

A ballot measure likely would be voted on in November 2018.

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

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