MINUTES FOR THE SPECIAL MEETING
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
Friday, June 30, 2017
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street
Call to Order
Mayor Stromberg called the Special Meeting to order at 3:03 PM
Pledge of Allegiance
Members Present Members Absent
Discussion of funding options for additional police officers
Finance Director, Mark Welsh gave a presentation on the options provided in the packet (see attached).
He explained the 4 options: No additional Police officers, no property tax increase, property tax increase or reduce other fund expenditures.
If no property tax increase would have to increase electric and water or increase Property Tax 4.5 cents.
Mayor Stromberg opened the Public Hearing at 3:15 PM
Mary Ruth Wooding- 727 Park St., Ashland - Spoke that Ashland is getting too expensive to live. She spoke that we have a budget committee for a reason. She suggested to only fund 3 Police Officers.
Roy Laind-419 Willow Ashland – Spoke that as a member of this community we should have to pay for services and that raising property tax is best alternative. He spoke that we need to adequately fund our Police Department.
Jean Conger - 370 Glenn St., Ashland - Spoke in support of the Budget Committees decision. She spoke of the need for Police Officers but suggested finding the money another way.
Betsy Shanafelt - 572 Holly St., Ashland - Spoke opposed to tax rate increases. She explained the population has not grown and the City does not need 5 new Police Officers.
Carola Lacy - 85 Park St. Apt. #10 Ashland – Read a letter into the record (see attached).
Andrew Kubik – 1251 Munson Dr., Ashland - Spoke regarding staffing. He suggested doing a staffing comparison study with other cities. He stated he supports the Budget Committee’s findings and is against rate increases.
Karen O’Rourke – 742 Fairway Ct., Ashland - Spoke against tax increases and agreed with what the other citizens have said.
Douglas Smith – 60 Granite St., Ashland – He spoke that Council needs to listen to the Budget Committee. He suggested hiring 2 Police Officers at this time and work up to 5 over time. He spoke that a tax increase would hurt all property owners.
Marilyn Briggs – 590 Glenview Dr., Ashland – Suggested that Council read the letters from Carol Voison and Russ Silbiger. She explained that Administration costs have increased twice as much in the last 2 years. She spoke in support of the Budget Committee.
Mark DiRienzo – 1005 Timberline Terrace – Ashland - Read a letter into the record (see attached).
Shaun Moran – 615 Taylor St., Ashland - Spoke that he was a member of the Budget Committee and voted against rate increases. He explained his reasons why. He spoke that the Council should support the Budget Committees decision.
Barbara Combs - 444 Park Ridge Pl., Ashland – Suggested to raise room tax instead of property tax. She explained that would be more fair to the Citizens since Ashland is a tourist town.
Susan Hall - 210 East Nevada Ashland– Read a letter into the record (see attached).
Paula Hyatt – 625 Van Sant St., Ashland - Spoke that she was on the Budget Committee. She explained that she voted to keep the tax rate flat. She spoke that in support for the Police Officers. She spoke that she would of have voted no had she known there would have been this meeting tonight.
Salagon Amery - 419 Waterline Rd., Ashland- Thanked Council for their work. Spoke in concerns of excess spending. Advised Council to consider other alternatives to pay for Police Officers.
Debra Neisewander – Tax Lot 1700 (1159 Tolman) Ashland - Spoke regarding measure 50. Spoke opposed for hiring more Police Officers, tax increases or utility rates.
Heidi Parker – 344 Bridge St., Ashland – Spoke to not approve increase in utility rates until the public can speak. She explained that she worked for the school district and had to cut the budget for 8 years. Cuts are necessary not raising taxes. She spoke that community involvement is important and that Council takes advice from the Public Commissions and Committees.
Huelz Gutcheon- 2253 HWY 99 – Spoke regarding the importance of having Police Officers and to address climate change.
Mayor Stromberg closed the Public Hearing at 4:04 PM
Councilor Rosenthal questioned how the phase in hiring process would go. Chief O’Meara explained the process and spoke that 2 Officers would be hired by the end of July. He explained there are 4 patrol teams. Hiring 5 additional Police officers would allow for one additional officer for each patrol team and one officer for the re-engagement with the school resource officer program.
Councilor Slattery asked if policing is more complex than a few years ago. Chief O’Meara answered that it is more complex and that the population has increased from 18,000 to 21,000. Tourism has increased as well as the student body. He explained that the case load, calls for service and response time have all gone up.
Chief O’Meara explained that the cost to hire an officer with wages and benefits is $110,000 per year. The Police Department can absorb all other costs except for personnel. Mayor Stromberg asked if there was an incident at the Plaza and another across town with the current coverage who takes the call. Chief O’Meara answered that PD has excellent partnerships with Talent, Phoenix, Medford, County and State PD. He explained that even with the partnerships it is still important to hire the officers needed to ensure the best job for Ashland. He gave examples of being shorthanded. He spoke that in 4 weeks there was 9 times that only 1 officer was on duty to handle all Ashland business. Chief O’Meara explained that being short staffed is also dangerous for the Officer and the criminal if there is an altercation.
Police Officer shifts was discussed. Chief O’Meara spoke that there should be 2 officers/1000. With this ration Ashland should have 40 officers and currently there are only 23.
Mayor Stromberg addressed the suggestion to cut social service grants. He spoke to the importance of keeping this service for the City. Quality of life in Ashland draws in 300,000 visitors and it is important to look at everything and prioritize.
Councilor Slattery moved to not fund the 5 police officers using an increase in property tax or metered city surcharge. Councilor Seffinger seconded. Discussion: Councilor Slattery spoke in support for the need of 5 Police Officers. He spoke regarding issues of the budget process. He spoke that he is not in favor of increasing property tax or city surcharge. He doesn’t think that the $285-million-dollar budget has been tightened so much that there is no way to fund the Police Officers within the City’s resources. He spoke to the importance of knowing how much the marijuana tax will be before making a decision as well what the legislature is going to do. Councilor Seffinger spoke that this is a difficult decision because she understands the burden of extra taxes. She spoke regarding the difficulties to prioritize and fund everything. She spoke that public safety and the safety of the Police Officers is a moral duty for the Council to support. Councilor Darrow spoke in opposition of the motion. She explained that the Council approved hiring 5 Police Officers in April. She spoke that her motion to increase property taxes was a way to keep the commitment that Council had already made to the Police Department. Councilor Lemhouse spoke that going against the Budget Committee was not a good decision and Council should not be here today. He explained that Council is part of the Budget Committee and work well together. He explained he is not in support of changing the tax rate and his reasons why. He spoke to the importance of having the Police Department adequately staffed. He does not support the motion regarding no utility fee increase. He spoke that a utility fee increase would be the fairest way to fund this since it is a rate based utility fee. He would also like to see the marijuana tax first. Councilor Morris disagreed with Councilor Lemhouse and spoke that he would prefer a property tax increase instead of a utility fee increase. He spoke that he would like to set aside property tax for PERS. He also spoke that since the marijuana tax is still unknown he would like to start with hiring 2 Police officers. Councilor Rosenthal spoke that he cannot support the motion. He spoke on how to define the City’s priorities. Would like to look at creating revenue streams. He spoke regarding the need for the Police Officers and that Ashland needs to stop using other Cities for their Public Safety.
Councilor Slattery spoke that his motion was not suggesting to not fund the Police Officers. He explained resources are available to utilize to fund the Police Officers except the property tax.
Councilor Lemhouse moved to divide the motion between property tax and utility rate. No second motion died. Roll Call Vote on the main motion: Councilor Slattery: YES. Councilor Lemhouse, Rosenthal, Morris, Seffinger and Darrow: NO. Motion failed 1-5.
Councilor Darrow moved to approve “A Resolution Levying Taxes for the Period of July 1, 2017 to and Including June 30, 2018, Such Taxes in the Levy rate of [$4.2865/$1000 or some lower rate] Assessed Value Upon All the Real and Personal Property Subject to Assessment and Levy Within the Corporate Limits of the City of Ashland, Jackson County, Oregon”. Councilor Rosenthal seconded. Councilor Darrow explained that she is not a fan of the property tax but we do have to keep the commitment made to hiring the 5 new Police Officers. She explained that this only gets half of the funding needed. Councilor Rosenthal spoke that he is not excited for an increase but the reality is needed for what to achieve. He explained this is an excellent investment for those who live and visit here. Councilor Lemhouse disagreed with this motion. He spoke that the Budget Committee worked hard and Council should. Councilor Slattery agreed with Councilor Lemhouse. Councilor Seffinger spoke that the decision of Budget Committee should be honored. Councilor Morris spoke in support of the motion and agreed to honor the Budget Committee. Mayor Stromberg spoke to finding a compromise. He suggested funding 3 Police Officers and then wait until the Fall to see what happens with the marijuana tax. With compromise it will lessen the negative impacts and deal with addressing the urgency. He spoke he will vote no with the idea that there is a better approach. Councilor Darrow, Morris and Rosenthal: YES. Councilor Lemhouse, Slattery and Seffinger: NO. Mayor Stromberg: NO. Motion failed 3-4.
Councilor Lemhouse moved to set the property tax at 4.1972 per thousand of assessed value. Councilor Slattery seconded. Discussion: Councilor Rosenthal spoke he will vote against this motion because it would shut off a potential revenue stream. Councilor Darrow moved to amend the motion to set the property tax rate at 4.2422 per thousand of assessed value. Councilor Morris seconded. Councilor Darrow spoke to have a compromise and that this is a good way to get started on the commitment made. Councilor Morris spoke that this is a compromise worth doing and hopes for other funding streams in the future. Councilor Lemhouse spoke that this is not a compromise undermining the Budget Committees work. Councilor Slattery agreed with Councilor Lemhouse. Councilor Seffinger agreed with Councilor Lemhouse.
Roll Call Vote on motion amendment: Councilor Darrow, Morris and Rosenthal: YES. Councilor Lemhouse, Slattery and Seffinger: NO. Mayor Stromberg: YES.
Roll Call Vote on Main Motion: Councilor Darrow, Morris and Rosenthal: YES. Councilor Lemhouse, Slattery and Seffinger: NO. Mayor Stromberg: YES. Motion passed 4-3.
Councilor Rosenthal moved to create a public safety support fee and set the assessment at zero. Councilor Lemhouse seconded. Councilor Rosenthal spoke of the importance to establish revenue streams. He explained that setting it at zero Council has the option to set the fee by Resolution. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Darrow, Lemhouse, Morris, Slattery, Seffinger and Rosenthal: YES. Motion passed unanimously.
Councilor Darrow moved to Repealing Resolution 2017-16 amending the biennial budget to be $286,173,664 Adopt the 2017-19 Biennial Budget including amending the Police Department line item to $15,248,125. Councilor Seffinger seconded. Discussion: Councilor Darrow explained that this is the motion that needs to be passed to get to the state. She urged Council to pass this motion. Councilor Seffinger spoke in support of this motion and the need to fund the Police Department. Councilor Slattery spoke that he will continue to work to find ways to get the Police Department but will not support this motion. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Darrow, Morris, Seffinger and Rosenthal: YES. Councilor Slattery and Lemhouse: NO. Motion passed 4-2.
Councilor Slattery thanked the Council and Staff for their hard work on the budget.
Councilor Seffinger spoke that Council was transparent in dealing with this situation.
Adjournment of Special Meeting
The Special Meeting was adjourned at 5:40 PM
Respectfully submitted by:
City Recorder, Melissa Huhtala