By Mary Owen
Stayton city officials are reviewing the need for a new four-year local option levy for the city’s pool, library and parks to be placed on the May 15 ballot.
“A significant element of the proposed local option tax is the replacement of funds that will be lost when the existing local option tax, passed by Stayton voters in November 2008, expires at the end of the next fiscal year,” said Christine Shaffer, the city’s finance director.
Shaffer said the 2008 four-year operating levy for $300,000 a year only covered the Stayton Family Memorial Pool and the Stayton Public Library. The new levy, if passed, would also cover Stayton’s city parks, she said.
“This levy is very important in keeping these facilities up and running for the community,” Shaffer said.
A work session will be set for mid-January, date, place and time to be announced, Shaffer said. “We need people to come out and help educate voters on the need for this levy,” she said.
In a Nov. 28 memo, Shaffer told Mayor Scott Vigil and Stayton city councilors, “As we prepare to discuss the future needs for operations, maintenance and improvements for the library, pool and city parks, we also need to discuss the consequences of a failed measure.”
Without levy funding, Shaffer said a likely scenario could be the closure and “mothballing” of the pool and a reduction in library hours from six days to three or four days a week.
“The library relies on the local option tax for one third of its budget,” Shaffer said. “The pool relies on (it for) 40 percent – $115,763 annually for general operations and $33, 637 for capital improvements.”
Shaffer told the council closing the pool wouldn’t necessarily save the costs of utilities, maintenance and insurance.
“Although costs in all three categories could be reduced, we couldn’t just lock the door and walk away,” she said.
Leading the “mothballing” measures, water would need to be kept in the pool to prevent structural upheaval from surrounding groundwater pressure, she added.
“The staff’s best estimate at this time is that utilities, maintenance and insurance would still be a $50,000 to $55,000 annual cost even for a ‘closed’ pool,” she wrote. “Thus we might be able to ‘save’ about half of the current annual costs for those items.”
If the pool is to be kept open, maintenance is the top priority, Shaffer said. “Its heating and air systems are not working properly,” she said. “There’s lots of moisture in the building, causing equipment to rust. Anything metal needs attention.”
For example, the pool slide needs repainting, a task that should not be done without addressing the core issue, she said. “We have a mechanical engineer now looking at the heating and air system,” she added.
Additionally, when the 2008 levy expires, library revenues will be cut by $130,700. Without a new levy, Shaffer warned the library would require significant reductions in labor-related costs, particularly the 74 percent of the budget for personnel services. The city would have to shift any savings realized from changes in the pool to keep the library open three days a week, four at best, she said.
And the library is not without maintenance issues, including repair of windows and other items, Shaffer added.
Because it does not now benefit from the 2008 levy, the parks program will not be directly impacted by failure of the proposed levy, she said. “Parks has historically been included in the local option tax measures supported by the voters,” Shaffer said.
The outcome of a new levy can’t be realistically determined until after the city’s budget process this spring, but city officials are hopeful Stayton voters will approve a new local option tax, Shaffer said. “Voters have approved levies to operate parks and pool since 1995,” she said. “As long as it’s a reasonable increase, we hope that taxpayers will vote to keep the quality of life this provides for them.”