City weighs how to spend new safety payroll tax funds

After the murder of George Floyd, the city heard from residents who wanted the money spent in other ways.

Posted: May 11, 2021 11:53 AM
Updated: May 11, 2021 1:36 PM

EUGENE, Ore. – It’s been four months since the City of Eugene implemented a payroll tax to help fund community safety programs, but it’s still unclear how exactly that money will be divided up.

The Community Safety Payroll Tax was approved by the Eugene City Council in 2019 and taxes employers, employees and the self-employed to help fund public safety. It’s expected to generate $23.6 million in additional revenue for the city each year.

“The $23.6 million per year was based on a specific package of community safety services that provided roughly 65% for police services, 10% for fire and emergency medical services, 15% for municipal court and prosecution services, 7% for homeless services and 3% for prevention services,” said city spokesperson Laura Hammond.

However, Hammond said the funds don’t actually have to be distributed in that way. After the murder of George Floyd, the city heard from residents who wanted the money spent in other ways.

To help figure out how to better divide the funds, the city brought together focus groups of the BIPOC community and conducted a broader online survey for respondents of all backgrounds.

The results were varied, but tended to favor less funding for the police and more funding for alternatives.

“Anecdotally, having analyzed this data, I will tell you that a large proportion of those responses said less funding to EPD and then said add more funding to homelessness or services for folks that are unhoused,” said Jason Dedrick, a city policy analyst.

The feedback also differed based on who filled out the survey. BIPOC communities and white communities had some similar responses about their interactions with police, which differed from responses from those who identified as LGBTQ.

However, the city said there’s “general alignment” between the top priorities of BIPOC communities and all respondents. The highest priority in the survey was addressing the homeless crisis and the need for stable, affordable housing.

“I think the bottom line is we need to do things differently. We need to do things smarter, and we need to do that with respect for people,” said councilor Alan Zelenka.

The city anticipates holding several more work sessions on the topic.

You can find the full report online.

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