CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Corvallis City Council voted Tuesday night to remove Oregon State University from its tax levy proposal, making it so the University would feel no obligation to fund a city police officer.
On July 15, the city council voted on city services to be levied, if voters were to pass the ballot measure in November. Originally, the council voted that the city would fund two police officers, plus a school resource officer. The city would also fund a third officer for livability, if OSU would pay for bringing in a fourth officer. But OSU says it did not know about the levy proposal until after the council voted on it. The University says legally, it does not have the authority to give funds to the city for public safety.
Tuesday night, the council met to vote on whether to amend the levy proposal, after members listened to testimony from the University, the police department, and citizens.
“You’re considering tonight whether to take this off the ballot; I say leave it on,” said Kerry McFall, a concerned resident. “I say the University should pay.” McFall says she is concerned about the increase of parties in her neighborhood.
“We’re very concerned with all of the new development that has sprouted up really within the last six months to a year in our neighborhood,” McFall said. “A huge new development building opens up just two blocks from us.”
The city council put OSU’s name on the ballot last month, saying that with the increase in student population, it hoped that the University would step up and help pay for an additional police officer.
But OSU says it is already working on pro-active solutions to support positive student conduct. The University is hiring four new employees to work with students and with the community relating to the code of conduct and community relations.
“These are all new positions, and their job is to get ahead of problems before they become problems,” University Relations and Marketing Vice President Steve Clark said.
Clark says the new team members will be working around the clock to address off-campus issues involving students.
But some community members say though they appreciate the University’s collaboration efforts, they would rather see those funds used elsewhere.
“I would a whole lot rather see half that money go towards the police,” McFall said.
But the University says under state law, OSU is not authorized to pay the salary of a city police officer.
After listening to testimony, the council voted to amend the levy, still adding three police officers to the ballot, but removing OSU’s name from funding a fourth officer.
The local option levy isn’t just about public safety funding. If it passes, residents would pay roughly 82 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for other services too, including keeping Osborn Aquatic Center and the Senior Center open.