Nov. 7 ballot measures: Silverton mayor discusses pool levy, gas tax

October 2017 Posted in Business, Community

Next month, Silverton residents will have the opportunity to consider two ballot measures that are very important to the community – on behalf of the City Council, I urge each of you to consider them carefully.

A five-year Pool Levy (first passed in November of 2012) will provide another five years of operations and maintenance of this important community asset. A very broad citizen panel considered all options including a new pool and seasonal use of the current pool in 2012 and unanimously agreed that year round operation of the current pool is vital to the community. I’m very happy to report that the 2017 ballot measure – if approved – will reduce what you passed in 2012 by 22 percent per $1,000 of assessed value of your home. The rate passed in 2012 was $0.45/$1,000 of assessed value and the proposed rate being asked of voters is $0.3659/$1,000.

For a home with an assessed value of $200,000, that amounted to $90 per year in 2012, while the proposed rate will amount to $73.18 per year.  The partnership between the city and the Silver Falls YMCA, which operates the pool, has been a great success, and the pool is used for much more than recreation. It is the home of the Silverton High School Swim Team (who pay for their use), it provides a vital resource for independent exercise as well as fitness classes, and is a great tool for rehabilitation. The city ordered two very comprehensive evaluations of the pool’s condition in the past year and I’m happy to report that it has held up very well for a facility its age. Even so, the proposed levy will include expanded maintenance in an effort to preserve this asset for years to come, AND will cost a homeowner less.

Perhaps more controversial but no less important, the council is also asking for consideration of a local two-cents-per-gallon gas tax. While the council completely understands the financial stress that some residents are feeling during this time when we are trying to catch up with long-deferred maintenance needs, we are also continuously looking for ways to spread the burden for that maintenance more fairly. Currently, only residents in the Silverton city limits contribute directly to street maintenance, while many, many others use our street systems every day. Obviously a two cent gas tax hits us all equally, but for the first time, outside residents would share in the burden. For the past two years, we have been aggressively protecting our “decent condition” streets by applying crack seal and slurry seal treatments through a partnership with Marion County. The proceeds from a 2 cent gas tax (every dime must be used for maintenance, construction, and preservation of streets – no staff or equipment expenses) would allow us to double the slurry seal program or allow us to begin what will be an expensive process of fixing McClaine Street, our number one priority.  For a single vehicle driver who drives 12,000 miles per year and get 15 miles per gallon, this will cost $16 per year.

A gas tax is the ideal vehicle for funding street repair, construction, and preservation in that it’s consumption based, meaning that you only pay it if you buy gas, and it’s proportionate to the amount of stress that one puts on our street network. It provides a minor incentive to those who may consider alternative transportation and would allow us the option of transferring future increases in the city’s per-dwelling street utility fee to a system that provides more fairness to our citizens. The city’s long term list of needed maintenance projects is enormous, but this measure would play a large role in making some meaningful progress.

Thank you for your consideration and support of this amazing community that we are fortunate to live in!

Kyle Palmer
Mayor, City of Silverton

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