Urban renewal agencies draining money from Oregon schools


by Rob Taylor

Several years ago, it became painfully obvious that the City Council of Bandon was going on a political spending spree funded by public tax dollars.  They planned to expand the budget of the city’s Urban Renewal Agency (URA), which was going to increase the local debt, while draining necessary money from ten other overlapping taxing districts.

As expected, the city increased the maximum indebtedness of the URA area Plan #1 to $12 million and extended it out to the year 2033. This is just one of seven Urban renewal districts in Coos County and last year these agencies drained $3 million dollars in property taxes, which is 5% of the total collected annually.  That amount is increasing by 5.6% every year and that percentage is growing.  Currently, Multnomah County sacrifices 25% of every dollar collected in property taxes to Urban Renewal and much of that money goes into the pockets of very wealthy developers and private consultants.

Last year the State of Oregon lost over $182 Million in taxes due to Tax Increment Financing, which is the process Urban Renewal agencies use to skim money from schools, colleges, hospitals, fire departments, law enforcement and many other taxing districts that provide the basic services on which people depend.  The state’s school districts suffer the largest loss of money, up to 45% of the funding comes from their coffers, and the state has to backfill that loss with the revenue provided by our income taxes.  Then cities and counties use that funding to leverage grant money from state and federal government agencies.  Those grants also come from other sources of tax revenue paid for by us, the taxpayer.  It becomes apparent that the entire process is a pyramid scheme developed as a mechanism to provide sustainability to the corporate welfare system, with little to no input from citizens.

Eventually this process will start to consume too much of our taxes and will leave many municipalities financially ravaged.  Cities and counties cannot go into bankruptcy according to OR law, so they use the debt from Urban Renewal to subsidize their budgets through varying infrastructure projects.  A city or county does not suffer damage to their credit rating if their Urban Renewal Agency goes belly-up, because under current law it is an independent entity legally separate from the city or county of origin.

A few weeks ago, Senator Jeff Kruse introduced a bill that would take Urban Renewal out of the hands of greedy, misguided politicians and put those agencies under the control of the voter.  Senate Bill 478 will allow the voters of Oregon to decide the fate of these over-bloated, bungled bureaucracies.  The bill would allow the voter to decide on the creation of an URA plan, or an increase in the URA debt or any expansion of any existing URA areas.

The people of Oregon have to support this bill by calling or emailing your Senator and demand them to vote in favor of the people by voting for SB 478.  Right now, the bill is in the Business and Transportation committee of the state senate.  The following Senators are on that committee and people can contact them via email.

Sen. Beyer                [email protected]

Sen. Starr                  [email protected]

Sen. Edwards           [email protected]

Sen. Girod                 [email protected]

Sen. Monroe             [email protected]

Sen. Thomsen          [email protected]

Please, send them a message telling them to support SB478 by sending this bill to the floor of the Senate for a full vote and passing it onto the House of Representatives.  It should be the people’s decision on Urban Renewal since they and their children are the ones burdened with this very heavy public debt.

Rob Taylor – Bandon, OR