Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy

63°F

Portland

Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 78%

Wind: 3 mph

  • 16 Sep 2014

    Mostly Cloudy 78°F 59°F

  • 17 Sep 2014

    Cloudy 83°F 60°F


Milwaukie voters approving extra tax to pay for light rail

Since most Milwaukie voters seem willing open their wallets, according to Tuesday night’s preliminary results showing the $4 million bond measure passing by a 55-to-45-percent margin, the city probably won’t have to make estimated cuts almost twice the size of budget slashes already in the works.

Bond advocates had argued that the bond had more to do with finances than paying off TriMet for the city’s obligation to the light-rail line. Proposed costs to taxpayers are modest, they argued, since that typical property owner with a house assessed at $200,000 or less would pay $3 per month or less assuming Measure 3-439 is eventually approved.

On behalf of City Council, Mayor Jeremy Ferguson

thanked Milwaukie voters for quickly sizing up the situation and seizing this opportunity to preserve what makes their city great.

“My council colleagues and I attended many public meetings to spread the word,” Ferguson said. “Voters told us this was a ‘no-brainer’ — a one-time chance to save taxpayers’ money and retain core services. This will save hundreds of thousands of dollars — up to $365,000 a year — for 20 years. This money can now be used to sustain core services including police protection and library.”

If the May 20 results don’t go the city’s way in later returns, Milwaukie’s Budget Committee would be on a short timeline to approve more cuts to city staffers. Committee members were scheduled to meet Thursday, May 29, to come up with an alternative plan that would take into account another $200,000 in annual cuts.

Three members of City Council had advocated that the city develop a “Plan B” so that they wouldn’t be so rushed to review additional cuts before a June 30 deadline, but the other seven members of the Budget Committee overruled them by contending that voters would perceive “Plan B” as an empty threat. If the measure had failed by a vote of 51 percent to 49 percent, City Manager Bill Monahan had also argued, that might cause the council to develop a budget that would assume another ballot-measure attempt rather than cut another two or three positions outright.

Regardless of his previous advocacy for discussing a “Plan B” prior to May 20, Council President Dave Hedges was happy with the positive outcome of the measure. Hedges won his election in 2010 in part by promising voters that he would become a strong voice for letting citizens decide how they would like to pay off the city’s obligation to TriMet.

“The bond wasn’t as close as I thought it was going to be, and I thought that it could have gone either way, although I obviously hoped it would go in our favor,” Hedges said. “I’m pleased it passed, and even when I was running for council, I thought that the only sensible way to pay it off was with fresh money, which is what the bond measure is.”

A draft budget presented April 10 to city councilors and other members of the city’s Budget Committee revealed that even with the bond measure passing, there would have been a large deficit in maintaining the current budget.

Equivalent to full time, 4.4 positions were already set to be cut in the current draft budget for the next two years, as compared with the last biennial budget. Among those to be cut is the position of former Parks and Sustainability Director JoAnn Herrigel, who retired last year after leading the Riverfront Park project. Also on the chopping block, regardless of the bond measure passing this week, are an administrative supervisor, a senior planner, a code compliance specialist and various part-time positions. A PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) rate increase of 3 percent and a reduction in photo-radar revenues are anticipated as part of this budget.