Corvallis Levy Controversy

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CORVALLIS, Ore. — The Corvallis City Council voted Monday night to add more services to this year’s levy for November’s ballot, including a controversial option to add more police officers to the community with Oregon State University’s help.

The tax levy would be a renewal of what voters passed in 2011 to keep Osborn Aquatic Center and the Chintimini Senior Center open, as well as fund for longer library hours and some social services.

The City Council decided to add more services onto this year’s levy option, including an addition of up to five Corvallis police officers.

Currently, residents are paying almost 45 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value. But in November, if the new five-year levy passes, residents would pay almost double that amount. But in return for the higher taxes, community members would receive more public safety.

Councilors say Corvallis has the same number of police officers it had over a decade ago. But because of the increasing enrollment at Oregon State University, councilors say they want extra help funding the police department from the University.

“The need for additional public safety investment is completely because of Oregon State,” said City Councilor Joel Hirsch. “It’s wonderful having the University in our town, but there are expenses that are a direct result of them being here – like policing for parties.”

The city council voted to include five police officers on the levy: one would be a resource in schools, and two would be hired immediately for city patrol. The other two would be contingent on the city’s help from OSU. If the levy passes, and if OSU is willing to fund a fourth police officer, the city would match the funding and hire a fifth police officer.

Hirsch says the council hopes the matching of funds will encourage OSU to get on board. However, OSU says it was not aware of the proposal before it was voted on by the council.

“It’s frankly disappointing that a measure of such significance to include the University was proposed without first reaching out to the University,” said Steve Clark, Vice President of University Relations.

Clark says OSU spends thousands of dollars on supporting the community through the Corvallis Collaboration Project, which began in September 2011. He says the University is already helping the community with safety, transportation services, and community relations. Clark also says state law does not allow the University to take state funds to give to the city, but he is supportive of collaboration.

“We believe in working together and we’ll do that,” Clark said. “We will do that in accordance to state law and we think that requires communication in advance and no surprises.”

Other services the city will include on the option levy include paying back mis-assessed taxes for Hewlett Packard, opening the library on Sundays, and hiring several other city employees.

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