EUGENE, Ore. — A new city fee may soon be put on the May voting ballot in Eugene. That fee totals an extra $120 a year per household if approved.
City Manager Jon Ruiz says administrators have cut Eugene’s debt by $24 million over the last four years, but the deficit still stands at $6 million. The $10 monthly city services fee council members brainstormed Monday night is one of the proposed solutions to offset some of that debt.
“The city council is not just trying to do something for themselves, but trying to figure out a way to generate revenue that would really benefit the community,” said Chris Pryor, Eugene City Councilor.
That’s why the plan is to put the revenue generated from the fee toward maintaining services ranked worth it by residents in recent surveys. Those include quality of life services like public safety, economic development and street/bike path maintenance. The theory is if those services are funded by this new source of revenue, the city can put other funds toward balancing the budget.
Last night, councilors decided the plan looks plausible, but they also worked to explore the downsides to the idea.
“The council brought up a concern and a real concern that people are going through real difficult financial times right now, and we know that, I know that, and we don’t take that lightly at all,” Ruiz said.
Between now and the next meeting, Ruiz says they’ll look into options for low-income residents and examine the true benefits of instituting this charge. They’ll also gather more public input.
The surveys done in July and November last year were only preliminary. The final public input will manifest during a public hearing set for next month.
“It’s always better to allow the public to weigh in and say where you want to go is where I want to go, and that’s exactly what a vote is,” Pryor said.
The timeline now is a public hearing on Feb. 4. Then the council will decided whether to put the fee on the May ballot. Legally the city council could implement the charge without any vote or input from residents. Eugene councilors say that option is off the table.