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Jacque Betz, Gladstone's city administrator, responds to opinion article by Bill Osburn

Gladstone city staff read the opinion article that Bill Osburn submitted to the Clackamas Review last week regarding utility rates. We conducted a "fact-check" and have found numerous errors in Mr. Osburn's article.

In 2015 a Gladstone family paid $45.45 (not the $43 that Mr. Osburn quoted), which included a $21.78 pass-through charge to Clackamas County's Water Environment Services (WES), per month at a minimum. Now Gladstone ratepayers are charged a base fee of $68 ($25.36 pass-through to WES). That's an increase of just over 50%, not 57% as Mr. Osburn stated.

Gladstone has proposed 25.9% increases in 2020 and 2021. Mr. Osburn misstated the increase proposed in January 2021.

Proposed increases could potentially raise rates by as much as 51%, or $35 per month from January 2020 to January 2021, not by 61.9% or $51 per month as Mr. Osburn stated. That would make a 127% ($45.45 to $103) increase from January 2015 to January 2021, not a 275% increase outlined by Mr. Osburn.

Mr. Osburn wrote that at the Oct. 8 Gladstone City Council meeting "a number of residents gave public testimony about these increases and the impacts on residents." In fact, two residents (including Bill) were in opposition, one was in favor and two asked neutral questions.

At the meeting, city councilors in fact explained their positions in detail for not allowing the people to vote on this in the form of a bond. Mr. Osburn incorrectly stated that this proposal was "quickly dismissed" by councilors.

Mr. Osburn alleged that Gladstone city staff are "misdirecting" citizens by neglecting to mention that the Oregon City's bill rate includes a pavement maintenance fee and a public safety fee. In fact, staff used the Utility Bill Comparison to show what a typical family would pay if they were to move to one of these other nearby entities. The city has been very transparent breaking down other entities' utility bills. We have been using and updating the same spreadsheet since early 2017.

Jacque BetzMr. Osburn alleged that Gladstone was "overinflating Oregon City's rate" by using an example of 6 water units to equate to Gladstone's minimum charge. However, the typical single family home in the metro area uses between 5 and 6 units of water per month, and that is the starting point for the Gladstone utility bill. We are not able to calculate it at a lower rate.

In comparing Gladstone tax rates with other cities, Mr. Osburn doesn't mention that our permanent rate is $4.82 per assessed $1,000. Local option levies for police and fire equal 99 cents per assessed $1,000, totaling $5.81 per $1,000 that goes to the city for general fund services. The county and school district also collect funds, so the total is $19.94/$1,000 for Gladstone. Measures 5 and 50 set the permanent tax rates for each jurisdiction. Property taxes do not pay for utilities. If the city was to go out for a general obligation bond, it would increase the property taxes. This has led to a severe livability burden for Gladstone residents.

Finally, although Mr. Osburn wrote that Gladstone's proposed increase wouldn't fix any infrastructure issues now, in reality, the rate adjustments would allow the city to address issues in the "Mutual Agreement and Order" with the Department of Environmental Quality, mandated as a result of recent sewage spills into the Clackamas River from our overburdened and outdated system.

Jacque Betz is Gladstone's city administrator.


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