Tigard expected to move forward with May public safety levy
Despite polling numbers that show support for a planned local option levy to pay for additional police officers is "low and soft," the Tigard City Council is expected to let voters decide for themselves in May.
"We have an obligation to the community to make the community safe," Mayor Jason Snider said during a Tuesday night, Jan. 7, council meeting. "And we're going to figure out how to do it."
The most recent survey tested property tax rates of 33 cents and 29 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
The council directed city staff to come back with firm numbers on what 29 cents per $1,000 of assessed value would buy for the city.
All five members of the council, including Mayor Snider, have expressed support for adding more police. City officials say a larger force will ensure there are more than three officers on duty at any given time to cover the city's five patrol districts, especially in the event of more than one emergency at one time.
In addition, the goal is to reduce response times for high-priority calls such as those involving thefts or physical assault.
The council wants to add eight patrol officers, a school resource officer and two officers dedicated to dealing with issues involving the city's homeless.
The council also is looking at whether the levy should pay for training in "de-escalation" tactics for officers as well.
"This is really a priority for us," Councilor Liz Newton, a former Tigard assistant city manager, told the council concerning a May levy. "I think we need to give voters another shot at it."
A previous local option levy that would have paid for more police officers as well as library and parks maintenance operations, failed in May 2018. That levy would have added $1.18 per $1,000 of assessed value to local property taxes — a considerably larger burden than the levy rates the council is now considering.
However, Newton said she wants to see needed support staff for those officers is included in the levy as well.
An initial survey conducted in October showed only a 38% level of support when an amount of $46 cents per $1,000 of assessed value was being discussed, an amount that would have included 2 to 3 cents dedicated to safety improvements along school routes. Those improvements are no longer being discussed as part of the current proposal.
Council members all agreed that they would prefer to go out for the levy as opposed to pursuing other options such as a business license, food and beverage, or payroll tax to pay for the added officers.
Snider said his experience has been that even those who are concerned about increases in property taxes are supportive of the levy after he explains the public safety needs of the city.
The City Council will meet again next Tuesday, Jan. 14. At that meeting, city staff are expected to present the council with specific costs for the additional officers, support staff and de-escalation training.
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