Fees on ballot: Voters would have to agree

October 2014 Posted in News

For Silverton residents Jon DeBo and Scott Walker, the reason they are advocating citizens vote “yes” on ballot measure 24-375 is because they firmly believe citizens should have a say in being taxed.

“Instead of the city council looking for creative ways to get more funds, we would like to see the city prioritize its budget,” DeBo said. “We would like to see the city be more fiscally responsible.”

The ballot measure amendment reads, “The citizens of Silverton reserve to themselves exclusively the power to create or increase taxes, fees or other charges.”  The campaign literature states, “If the measure passes, we get to vote. If it fails, we have no vote.”

Walker said the measure would amend the Silverton City Sharter if approved. He stressed the amendment does not include charges directly related to the use of a “city provided commodity or service; or to any court action or anything regulated by the state or federal government. It only applied to taxes or fees on individual or structures.”

Both Walker and DeBo said the measure stems from the city council passing the current fees added to citizen’s water bills for streets, parks and storm drains. The current fee, Walker said, is $7.50. If voters were to approve the measure, it would not take away or lower the fee. However, Walker said, it would prevent the city council from increasing the fee.

In a statement in the Voter’s Pamphlet, Mayor Stu Rasmussen encourages Silverton residents to vote no on Measure 24-275. “Let’s face it, he wrote, “none of us enjoys paying taxes and it was a rare, courageous act of the Silverton City Council and Budget Committee to start adding modest fees for streets, parks and storm drains to our utility bills.”

Rasmussen said it would be a mistake to pass the amendment because it would limit the council’s ability to do essential infrastructure maintenance. “We have under maintained our city for too long and repairs are needed now to avoid higher costs in the future.”

Walker and Debo both say they understand the city infrastructure is in need of repair. They would be in favor of supporting a bond or levy to pay for it. With either bonds or levies, there is a time limit and a list for how the money can be used, Walker said, adding the fees can continue and be raised with no end.

A levy or a bond, that is a based roughly on the person’s ability to pay, Walker said. With fees, the “poorest of the poor pay the same as the richest of the rich.” Both DeBo and Walker are CareVan drivers and often talk with clients about their financial worries.

“It’s not like we like to fight the city,” DeBo said, “but if we don’t feel the city is being responsible, what choice are you left with?”

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