Clackamas County Initiative Petition Filed to Protect Fire, Police and School Funding from Urban Renewal Debt
View Website & Download petition here
This Initiative Petition was filed in Clackamas County to require voter approval for any new or expanded Urban Renewal plans. Clackamas County uses Urban Renewal bonds as a financing tool for public improvements. These bonds must then be paid back by all county wide services that rely upon property taxes, including schools, police and fire. Unlike some municipalities in the region, Clackamas County voters have no say in whether these debts can be incurred. Even though urban renewal bonds have much higher interest rates than other bonds, they are preferred by county officials because no voter approval is required. This initiative petition does not seek to put an end to urban renewal. Rather, it simply gives countywide voters the right to decide if urban renewal (and it’s financing) is appropriate for both the local community and countywide needs. Voters will be able to decide whether they wish to prioritize and protect schools, police and fire, and other services over lower priority expenditures.
Currently Clackamas County urban renewal districts, according to the Oregon Department of Revenue, divert more than $9.2 million per year from county wide schools, police, fire and other basic services. Unavoidably, this loss of revenue then requires either replacement revenue through new or higher fees/taxes or service cuts.
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New urban renewal plans are underway that would allow the county to borrow $100s of millions more to fund Milwaukie Light Rail, parking garages, and higher density development in the McLoughlin corridor.
This is the same approach, attempted region wide, with prior rail lines and urban renewal plans.
The chief petitioners and the many county wide supporters recognize that the Urban Renewal misuse of tax revenue increasingly undermines the ability to provide county wide government services.
Chief petitioner John Williams expressed the concern many have:
“We can’t continue to bleed off property tax dollars that should go to basic services without getting public approval. Urban Renewal borrows money to pay for new development, and then takes future tax revenues from critical public services to pay for it. Our leaders ought to make their case to the public before locking down future tax revenues” said Mr. Williams.
The petition seeks to allow Clackamas County voters to intervene and direct the County Commission to better identify taxpayer priorities and to adopt more prudent management of County resources. Clackamas County voters should be provided the opportunity to determine whether light rail, development & new county buildings are more appropriate than police officers, teachers, and firefighters.
John Williams, Former Mayor of Oregon City
John Van Huizen, Clackamas County Deputy, Ret.