BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS'
January 4, 2006
Eugene City Council Chambers, 777 Pearl Street, Eugene
Commissioner Bill Dwyer presided with Commissioners Bobby Green, Sr., Anna Morrison, Peter Sorenson and Faye Stewart present. County Administrator Bill Van Vactor, County Counsel Teresa Wilson and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.
1. PUBLIC HEARINGS
a. FIRST READING AND PUBLIC HEARING Ordinance 1-06/In the Matter of Amending Chapter 4 of Lane Code to Add Provisions for a Lane County Public Safety Income Tax, to Adopt Administration and Collection Provisions, To Renumber Differential Tax Provisions (to LC 4.005 through 4.015), and to Set an Effective Date (LC 4.500 through 4.5xx) (Continued Public Hearing: January 11, 2006 at 1:30 p.m.; Second Reading and Deliberation: January 25, 2006).
Van Vactor gave the history of how the County got to where they currently are. He noted in October they received the Service Stabilization Task Force’s recommendation. He said they had to address the use of illegal drugs and abuse of alcohol and methamphetamine as the single most important factor associated with the criminal behavior and frequent interaction with the public safety system. He indicated that it was proposed that Lane County’s Public Safety System direct its resources to illegal drug producers and dealers, abusers and people who get their drugs through property crimes. He said that every part of Lane County’s Public Safety System must be devoted to the effort. He said the Task Force recommended a revenue measure to raise $24,530,000. He indicated they said that amount of revenue was necessary for the first five years as a good first step to address the problem. He noted they recommended as their solution either a sales or gross receipts tax. He commented there was little support for either tax at those proceedings. He reported the Board of Commissioners is proceeding to work on the goal and the direction for Lane County and filling the obligation of leadership that was addressed by the Service Stabilization Task Force. He said the Board met on November 29 and November 30 to address 13 issues regarding the problem. He noted the overall direction at the end of those two days was to indefinitely postpone consideration of the gross receipts tax and sales tax and to instead consider an income tax. He indicated tonight’s hearing was a follow up to that direction: the referral of a charter amendment authorizing a personal income tax and business tax for the May 11 election and then consideration of the actual income tax ordinances that would become effective if the voters approved the measure.
Wilson reported that the charter amendment and the ordinance imposing the income tax are both part of the same packet. She explained the charter amendment is in response to the direction the Board gave at the meeting on November 29 and November 30. She stated the charter amendment authorizes the Board to impose income taxes at a rate not to exceed 1.5% of the state taxable income. She added that was a maximum rate the Board could impose. She said it was consistent with the direction the Board gave. She noted that after the costs of collection and administration are taken off the top; a choice for the Board is to whether or not to take 5% of the funds for the County general fund. She noted that was a component of the original budget that the task force recommended. She explained that the remainder of the funds is dedicated for public safety system programs. She noted the dedication specifies the initial goals for the first five years. She added those were the same goals that came from the task force report. She noted thereafter the funds are to continue to be used for the dedicated purposes of public safety.
Wilson indicated the third section of the charter amendment discusses the property tax relief. She said the Board wanted the charter amendment to provide for property tax relief at $1.00 per thousand. She said Section 4 addresses the Secure Rural Schools funding. She indicated that Lane County receives a substantial amount of money from federal legislation called the Secure Rural Schools that is ending in 2007. She said the Board directed that the charter amendment be written to provide funding in lieu of Secure Rural Schools Act if they are unsuccessful in achieving renewal or reauthorization.
Wilson stated the charter amendment has a maximum tax rate that includes the components for the cost of the property tax relief and the Secure Rural Schools funding. She added that the ordinance would only go into effect if the voters approve the charter amendment. She said the details of the ordinance are critical for the voters to understand how the income tax actually works. She said the ordinance has a personal income tax, an income tax on non-residents and an income tax on business activity within the County. She added that all of the tax rates are the same.
Dave Garnick, Senior Budget Analyst, summarized the different scenarios on Attachment A. He noted they recently ended negotiations with all of the bargaining units and he had recalculated the costs to include the increases so they are using the most up to date information. He said if the Secure Rural Schools Act money comes in, the total they have to levy a tax for decreases. He added the cost of the programs don’t decrease so in the process of decreasing the income tax rate, if they do get Secure Rural Schools Act, they still have to transfer the equivalent of that money over to continue to support those public safety services. He said the rates are the same for both personal and business tax. He noted that he hadn’t calculated in a low income tax exemption that Stewart was interested in looking at.
Dwyer asked what was not taxable income.
Wilson responded that any income the State of Oregon doesn’t tax would not be taxed on personal income. She added on business income, any business activity occurring within the County is taxable at a net income level. She noted if a person operates a business within the County, they would have a credit on the personal income tax for the business income tax they pay. With regard to personal income tax, she indicated that social security is not taxable and under state law, PERS and federal retirement are also not taxable.
Commissioner Dwyer opened the Public Hearing.
Judge Darryl Larson, Eugene, said he had completed 34 years in the criminal justice arena. He commented that drug and alcohol dependants and addiction drives most of the criminal justice problems. He added the drug and alcohol problem involves more people than most citizens realize. He said because of the size of the problem, they couldn’t afford to waste any public resources on strategies or methodologies that do not significantly or marginally improve public safety outcomes. He said to provide maximized public safety at reasonable cost to the public, the entire system must be in balance. He said alcohol and drug abuse is closely associated with criminal behaviors, child neglect and abuse, job absenteeism and accidents on and off the job. He noted that government research estimates that there are about 204,000 people in the state of Oregon that are in need of alcohol treatment and 85,000 people who are in need of drug treatment. He added of those, about 10% live in the County. He said that equates to 29,000 people in Lane County in need of treatment for alcohol or drug problems. He said they need sufficient jail space to provide added incentive for any addictive offenders who are forced to enter treatment and then to comply with the mandated treatment. He said they don’t have sufficient operational jail beds at this time. He said the Lane County criminal justice system is significantly out of balance in that there are too few district attorneys to review files, not enough treatment and mental health specialists, and too few jails for treatment. He commented that research places Oregon in the top four nationally for substance abuse and in the bottom two for treatment availability.
Rose Boyer, Eugene, stated she was a graduate from the Drug Court program in 1999. She said she has six years of sobriety and without the program, her life would not have changed. She stated she has received an education and helped improve her children’s education, and is able to be an active participate in the lives of her children and the community. She indicated she graduated from Lane Community College and is now attending the University of Oregon.
Lisa Lacey, Springfield, stated in 2003 she was a grand juror. She said she was a victim of crime in 1999. She indicated she had items stolen, including social security cards and had to combat identity theft. She added a photograph of her family was stolen and they knew her son’s name and what he looked like. She noted while on the grand jury, repeat offenders committed three quarters of the cases presented to her and they were drug related. She didn’t understand why her community would not put public safety first by increasing funding. She said she votes yes for every public safety measure before and after the burglary. She commented that if they want a safe community that they would be willing to pay for it. She encouraged all property owners to see how little of their taxes goes to Lane County. She commented that to make this a safe community, they all need to be willing to pay for it.
Curtis Greer, Springfield, said he is from private enterprise. He commented that anyone who violates the laws of the country is a criminal. He said Oregon is a state that subsidizes and promotes criminal activity. He said by asking for more taxes to take care of a problem that is being promoted by the state is not right. He commented that people here illegally shouldn’t be getting any services from the County.
Jessica Leon, Eugene, stated she used to have a meth addiction. She said she is getting resources to be on her own, has been clean for 19 months, has a great job and is able to be a mother to her children, which she had never been able to do before. She said she couldn’t have done it without the resources she had gotten through the County.
Jim Hale, Eugene, appreciated the Board moving away from reliance on property tax revenues. He said they need an amendment that limits the Board’s existing authority. He said the amendment should begin: “Limitations on Income Tax, rate limitation, the rate for any public safety income tax levied by the Board of Commissioners on business or personal income shall not exceed 1.5%.” He thought they should have a County taxable income and a paragraph should briefly define County taxable income and make clear that the rate limitation applies to that amount. He said that any personal income tax should be levied only on Lane County taxable income, defined as Oregon taxable income after adjustments and deductions, minus not less than $5,000 for married filers and $2,500 for single filers as established by the ordinance. He said if they fail to get that information across, it is very confusing and the ordinance might not pass.
Sorenson commented that the likelihood of voter approval doesn’t appear high. He asked about putting this off until the November election.
Hale responded that they have a crisis and putting things off for a year is not responding to a crisis. He said they need to have a proposal that takes care of the Secure Rural Schools Act no matter what happens with it. He said the County has its reputation to uphold.
Susie Day, Eugene, commented that treatment does work but there needs to be a balanced approach between corrections and the treatment services available. She said she works for Willamette Treatment Center and there is currently a two- to three-month waiting period to enter the women and children treatment programs. She commented that they have lost people through overdose while waiting for treatment to become available. She thought by taking this step forward that it would have impact not only on the systems that are correctional but the cost saved to the community and the families are incalculable. She said they have 1,000 people in foster homes. She said they were proposing a system that is proactive that deals with the multiple issues with substance abuse.
Bruce Pratt, Springfield, thought the proposal was like a breath of fresh air. He said it was a necessary solution to the serious meth crime problem in the County. He wanted to know the education on the effects of the meth epidemic on each person and on the families and children of the families so some people could be prevented from trying it.
Nisha Bantana, Eugene, asked if she had no income how it would affect her property taxes.
Dwyer indicated there were proposals that would give credit of $1.00 per thousand on property taxes.
Wilson said if the charter amendment were approved, the Board of Commissioners would not levy $1.00 per thousand. She said any property owner who pays property taxes would have a reduction of the Lane County share.
Cheryl O’Neal, Junction City, spoke about Domestic Violence. She said they have local data about the incidence of domestic violence that is not related to arrest. She noted a high percentage of people had domestic violence within the last year where a protective order was needed. She commented that domestic violence murders are preventable murders. She thought there was room for improvement but they are stuck with a system that can’t be funded adequately to make the change they know needs to happen.
Susan Walsh, Eugene, supported the Board providing funding for prevention programs. She stated she works for Committed Partners for Youth and they have been connecting people who have the highest need in the community with volunteer mentors. She said the primary role of adult mentors is to assist youth in their development of personal identity and healthy relationships and meaningful opportunities for their future. She commented that mentoring works and they believe funding should support it.
Charles Biggs, Eugene, thought public safety was vaguely described in the ordinance. He added the goals were vague. He thought the Board should state a goal of a crime rate level. He said it wasn’t spelled out as to how or who would allocate the funds and how it would be divided between public safety departments and who would make that decision. He wanted to know who would not be paying the taxes. He commented that people use public safety so they should be paying their fair share.
There being no one else signed up to speak, Commissioner Dwyer closed the Public Hearing.
There being no further business, Commissioner Dwyer adjourned the meeting at 8:10 p.m.