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City councilors voiced concerns about how Hillsboro distributes the cost of road maintenance.

PMG PHOTO: CHRIS ONSTOTT - Construction on Cornelius Pass Road.Hillsboro residents will see a slight increase in the amount they pay for the city's transportation utility fee starting March 1, 2020.

The fee pays for the city's pavement management program and for bike lane and sidewalk improvements. Every five years, the proportion that residents and non-residential establishments pay is redistributed based on the proportion of streets throughout the city that are residential or commercial, according to city code.

Residents have recently been paying 73% of the cost to maintain such roads when they should be paying 77%, based on the proportion of residential and commercial roads. On Tuesday, Nov. 19, the Hillsboro City Council approved raising the residential fee rate accordingly.

But before voting, multiple city councilors raised concerns about the routine redistribution of costs. They questioned whether residents should be paying a rate that is directly proportional to the distribution of residential and non-residential roads at a time when many people struggle with high housing costs.

"I take issue with the methodology," said City Councilor Kyle Allen. "Passing this produces no additional dollars to provide additional services. It simply takes what money industry was paying and places that burden further on residents in a program that I feel already was not equitable."

Residents in single-family dwellings will pay 32 cents more on their monthly utility bills and residents in multi-family dwellings will pay 29 cents more, making the total fees $9.11 and $8.20, respectively.

Overall, residents will pay about $143,400 more for the city's pavement management program — an amount that was previously paid for by businesses, schools and government offices at different rates. The city collects more than $3,888,400 for the pavement management program.

The resolution passed 5-1, with Allen as the sole "no" vote.

In response to a question from Allen, Tina Bailey, Hillsboro's transportation division manager, said if the City Council postponed a vote on the resolution, the city would not meet its deadline to implement the redistributed rates by April 1, 2020.

"The challenge now is we want to provide enough communication to our customers in advance of the increase so they can accommodate that," Bailey said.

Although the rate increases will take effect in a few months, councilors signaled they may want to reevaluate how transportation costs are distributed.

Currently, residential and non-residential payers split the maintenance costs of arterials, collectors and neighborhood routes. Costs for local residential and nonresidential roads are distributed based on the proportion of such roads, and residents pay for the entire bicycle and pedestrian improvement program.

City Councilor Anthony Martin voiced concerns about residents alone bearing the cost of bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

"When a person is walking or biking, they're not just walking to another house, they're walking to someone's business, they're walking to places to be able to get services or goods," Martin said.

He also said he appreciated a citizen's testimony that the payment distribution between residents in single-family dwellings and multi-family dwellings should be based on an estimate of how much nearby roads are used. The citizen said multi-family dwellings such as apartments at Orenco Station likely use the roads less because they're close to public transit.

City Councilor Olivia Alcaire said some residents may not be able to afford the fee, but they still deserve to have walkable and bikeable roads.

Bailey responded by saying there is a discounted fee program available to people who can demonstrate they meet certain requirements.

Before the councilors discussed reevaluating how transportation costs are distributed, Bailey pointed out the improvement programs have yielded substantial improvements to roadways.

Since the fee was implemented in 2008, the percentage of roadways considered to be in good or better condition has increased from 89.5% to 95%, Bailey said.

"That isn't to say that we aren't without some faults in our system, but regionally, we have one of the strongest pavement management programs," she said.

Editor's note: A previous verision of this story inaccurately characterized the growth of residential roadways. The story has been updated to remove the inaccuracy.

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