The City’s current low property tax rate is the result of history and has nothing to do with the fiscal responsibility of this or any other City Council. When Oregon voters approved Measure 47 and then Measure 50 putting a limit on property tax rates, the State stepped in and calculated all Oregon cities including Manzanita’s present property tax rate in 1996 and made it the permanent tax rate. This calculation was based on the fiscal and budgetary operating conditions of the City at the time of the calculation. Then, as today short term rental monies were the major source of General Fund revenue with property taxes a distant second. While Manzanita’s population was higher in 1996 than today, the City operated with less than half the number of employees and provided all of the services that citizens requested.
It’s ironic that you acknowledge how the City has managed to operate with such a low tax rate and without benefit of property taxes by using water utility revenue. This is the point that I have been raising to citizens and how water utility revenues are funding General Fund positions like the City Manager and Assistant City Manager through absurd overhead allocations from our water utility. The General Fund was not able to fund the salaries and benefits of this employee growth since 1996 and forced City officials to find creative ways to justify tapping the cash cow Water Fund to pay for these new employees. If anything, it is the fiscal irresponsibility of this City Council that has further stressed the General Fund and its ability to remain solvent by adding payments from the General Fund to repay the loan on the Underhill property.
I haven’t seen anyone accuse the Council of being in violation of Public Meeting law during negotiations for the purchase of the Underhill property. As to the mystery developer, who was this and what was he/she going to do with the property? It doesn’t really matter what a private developer wants to spend for a property using their own money. Public officials are held to a different standard when spending the public’s money including basic due diligence like getting an appraisal and letting your appraiser know that you are only interested in the property for the land. The City bought the property using the seller’s appraisal which concluded that to remove asbestos and demolish the buildings it would only cost $20,000. After the purchase, the City’s consultants now estimate those cost to be approximately $400,000. How about removing this controversy from this discussion and have the City do an appraisal and see if they could sell the property today for what they paid for it with what is now known about the property?
What structural engineering experts are you referring to that condemned the school? The licensed structural engineer who produced a 127 page report and said during his 2 hour presentation with the City Council that the buildings could be reused, could be brought to a Class 3 seismic rating, could have the interior reconfigured for other uses based on its simplistic construction design, provided costs for repair and structural remediation totaling $1.3 million dollars etc. Or the expert who the City brought in who gave a 3 minute presentation to the City Council, gave an opinion that the building should be demolished with the Council not asking not a single question? When this expert delivered his 2 page “report” 3 months later for the Council and citizens to finally read, it was discovered that he is not even a licensed structural engineer. Please go listen to the tapes of both meeting to confirm what I have just said.
No one is against preparing for future natural disasters in our community. I and others are against turning what was supposed to be building a new City Hall and Police Station outside of the tsunami zone into a regional evacuation site that Manzanita taxpayers will exclusively pay for. If the goal is to now make emergency preparedness the main goal, do it the right way so that all surrounding communities that will benefit will also pay their fair share of the facility costs.
Finally, please stop the scare tactics that suggest that if you do not vote for this bond there are no other options or more financially equitable opportunities to prepare for a natural disaster.