EUGENE, Ore. — Eugene residents are telling city councilors it’s time to learn to live within your means.
The city council is considering new fees to plug a huge hole in the budget.
The city council faced a tough crowd Tuesday night. Only one person spoke out in favor of the proposed fee. Everyone else wasn’t so supportive. In fact, many said this is really just a $4.5 million tax.
“You can call this a fee, an assessment, whatever you want to color it. It’s a tax,” said one resident.
One after another, Eugene residents lined up to give the city council a piece of their mind.
“It reminds me of extortion or The Sopranos. Instead of Tony coming down and shaking me up for ten bucks, it’ll be EWEB saying, ‘Cough it up or I’ll shut off your power,’” said another resident.
The potential $10 increase would be a result of allowing the city to use money from stormwater fees for things to keep up parks and open space. City staff says it could really help bridge the gaping hole in their budget.
“For the last several years we’ve been working to close a significant general fund gap. There’s been a lot of work done to really drive down our costs, but we’re at a place right now where we have another $6 million gap we need to close,” said Jon Ruiz, Eugene City Manager.
While the proposed fee could bring the city $4.5 million closer, many of the people who would foot the bill say it’s not worth giving up their rights.
“If you’re going to do it, you should do it to the vote of the people and let them turn you down,” said one Eugene resident.
But, for now, the city council gets to decide what happens, and residents weren’t happy about it.
“When will you write an ordinance that actually benefits the citizens and not the city?” asked a Eugene resident.
Councilors say they understood and heard the demand for the city to live within its means, just like the families who live here do. But they say that’s tough when the city’s family includes 160,000 members.
“We’re not doing this just for us. I’m doing this because I really want to be a member of this family and I know that you do too. Let’s work as hard as we can to do as thoughtfully as we can,” said Chris Pryor, Eugene City Councilor.
Tuesday night’s hearing was about one proposal–the stormwater fees. The city is also considering a service fee. Councilors will be talking about what to do next on Monday.