CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Starting this month, Corvallis residents and business owners will see a bump in their city utility bill. It's all part of a new public safety fee the city council passed at the end of 2018.
City officials say the fee will raise an estimated $3.1 million for the Corvallis Police Department every year. City leaders say they plan to hire 15 new officers and the money will allow them to do more community policing.
The fee will also raise $1.3 million for the Corvallis Fire Department, and officials plan to hire six new firefighters.
How much residents will pay varies by water meter sizes, according to a city spokesperson. They say most single-family homes have a 5/8-inch to 3/4-inch meter and say the fee for them will amount to $17.31 per month.
Charles Maughan represents ward two on the Corvallis City Council. He was elected after the council passed the fee last year but said he supports it.
"With the way our cap is on property taxes and the rising cost of PERS and health care, the city is left with few choices," Maughan said. "We need to hire more police officers. Our population's grown immensely over the last five years, and we haven't met that need."
Corvallis resident Alise Gardner said she's all for adding more first responders but said she may have to make some sacrifices to pay the bills.
"You got to trust the city. That's why you vote for your elected officials, and you hope they're doing what's best," Gardner said.
Maughan admits that the fee could be high for some families but believes this was the best way for the city to move forward.
"We need to look at lower income families and those struggling with student debt and have adjustments for those things," Maughan said.
Because the fee is attached to the city services bill, larger institutions that avoid paying property taxes will have to pay. In lieu of the fee, a spokesperson for Oregon State University said they will be giving an additional $75,000 to help with emergency communication on top of the $400,000 that they have given annually to the Corvallis Police Department in a community policing grant since 2017.