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Retiring city councilor says raising property taxes not the way to shore up flagging city budget

A departing member of the Newberg City Council is calling on city government to promise not to increase property taxes to make up for a budget shortfall.McKinney

Stephen McKinney, who is not running for re-election this fall and is not endorsing anyone for his seat or for mayor, said he is concerned that the council and city government may not have the best interest of property owners in mind in the context of the budget shortfall. Rather than enact an across-the-board fee or tax for all residents, he said a plan to raise property taxes would negatively impact just the property owners in the city.

"I'm very concerned about how city hall … is slow-tracking the process," he said, adding that there is another option on the table to overcome a shortfall he finds more palatable: charging utility fees that all residents would be responsible for, not just those who own property.

"I would hate for the council to follow to that same routine of making property owners bear all of the expense," he said.

The shortfall, as listed in a presentation given recently to the council, is listed as a $1.4 million structural deficit in the general fund, which is forecasted to increase in coming years to more than $1.6 million.

McKinney expressed a lack of confidence in the council and city administration to correct what he saw as mistakes, which is one of the reasons he chose not to run again for his seat.

"Outcomes for the next four years are not very good," he said.

City Manager Joe Hannan said there hasn't been a decision on how to close the shortfall and that the council has been working on addressing it for more than a year. He added that it's not decided whether this council or one that will be considerably different come January will address the issue and said the conversation will likely be taken up again in December.

"We are spending more money than we're bringing in," Hannan said in explaining the problem.

Property tax proceeds bring in more than $4 million to the city, he said, which doesn't even cover the costs of city services like the police department. He said an increase in property taxes or the public safety fee could be used to pay for those services.

"Right now they haven't had that conversation," Hannan said of the council.

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