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New tax for police, fire may be on Nov. ballot


Of the Keizertimes

Keizer City Councilors indicated Monday they still support some sort of new fee or tax to raise more money for police and fire services.

The question is how, and specifically what are voters most likely to support in a November ballot measure? Councilors expressed a preference Monday night for a fee assessed via utility bills over a tax aimed at cell phone users. The city and the Keizer Fire District may soon survey the public on which approach residents are most likely to support.

With the costs of providing 911 services growing – and increasingly subsidized by general fund revenues rather than dedicated 911 fees – both city and fire district officials have sought to find another revenue source to pay for those mounting communication costs.

Councilors last year passed a 3 percent telecom fee, but repealed it after opponents gathered enough signatures to place the question on a special election ballot via referendum.

Political consultant Chuck Adams is preparing a scientific survey, said City Manager Chris Eppley. Estimated at about $6,000, costs would be split between the city and fire district. About 400 people can expect to be contacted, Eppley said.

“You’re going to want to know what’s the most likely” approach the public would support, Eppley told the city council Monday night. “Otherwise you’re reducing your effectiveness as a group and wasting money, possibly, if you choose the wrong one.”

Police Chief Marc Adams said he sensed support for a fee on utility bills after a series of town halls earlier this year explaining expenses and possible revenue-generating measures.

“What we’re looking at is how to raise revenue to pay emergency communications costs for both agencies and freeing up money, at least for the police department, for personnel,” Adams said.

City Councilor Brandon Smith said explaining the proposed 3 percent telecom fee “takes three minutes of explanation” to turn around a default position of no.

“(Voters) have to know exactly what the impact to them is and what (we) are going to use it for,” Eppley added.

Joe Van Meter, president of the Keizer Fire District board, said his group hasn’t yet voted to support a particular methodology, but “we have clearly communicated to our chief we are in support to get a replacement for the landline reductions in 911 costs because as that fund’s reduced we have to expend more from our general fund.”