EUGENE, Ore.--Despite a pandemic, recession, and high unemployment, a new income tax for the city of Eugene is set to begin in three weeks.
It’s called the Community Safety Payroll Tax, and it's expected to bring in about $23.6 million each year. The tax applies to employers, employees and those who are self-employed.
"Money is so tight right now that any added expense is a big deal,” Joe Hawkey, kitchen manager at Morning Glory Cafe, said. “We don't even have enough money to fully staff right now. More than half of our staff is laid off."
Hawkey said while he supports funding police and Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS), now is a tough time for a new tax.
“It just means one more challenge for small businesses and business owners,” Hawkey said.
Most of the money will go toward the Eugene Police Department, including around 40 patrol officers, five detectives, 10 community service officers and nine 911 staffers. Some of the money will also support the court system and social services.
Minimum wage workers are exempt, and those who make less than $15 an hour have a lower rate. So do businesses with two employees or fewer.
A spokesperson for the city defended the move.
“When our safety system is stressed, that costs everybody more,” Laura Hammond said. “Having a safer community is better for businesses. It’s better for families, and it just helps create a stronger and more resilient community overall.”
Brittany Quick-Warner, president and CEO of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, said much the same.
“Public safety is, if not the, one of the top economic development issues for our community,” Quick-Warner said. “We have to have a strong public safety system if we want to have a strong business community.”
After seven years, the tax will come to a public vote. If not passed, the tax will be terminated.
“We have to hold the city accountable for making sure that those dollars are spent in a way where it's improving the safety of our community,” Quick-Warner said.
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