Your new city budget was approved tonight by members of the budget committee – which is made up of members of the city council and the hard-working volunteers who serve on our budget committee. All together, that’s me and 12 other Fairview residents, a small group deciding how to spend our tax dollars.
I’ll write more about the budget in the coming week, diving deep on certain projects and how we’ll pay for them. (The budget goes to the city council for adoption next week, so you can still weigh in). I want to share some highlights:
· The city budget for the next fiscal year, July 2021 to July 2022, is $30.2 million. That’s a $1.5 million, or 6 percent, increase over last year. If it weren’t for COVID related expenses, the increase would be about .5 percent.
· No, your property taxes won’t go up because of the budget we passed. We approved a tax rate of $3.49 dollars per thousand of assessed home value – which equates to a roughly $875 annual property tax bill for a home valued at $250,000. Because Oregon voters basically froze state tax rates by passing Measure 50, Fairview has had the same tax rate for 24 years.
· What you’ll get that’s new for 2021-2022: $2.3 million for a new city well, $2 million in sewer line replacements on Sandy Boulevard, a COVID relief specialist, playground equipment and a shelter at Pelfrey Park, and $100,000 in sidewalk replacements.
· There is a big budget bright spot. We’ll see an extra $975,000 in new funds coming to Fairview this fiscal year from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. More money comes to us next year. Also, the city’s employee retirement spending will actually go down almost 7 percent.
· Now the bad news. A good chunk of that new COVID money coming in from the feds will offset big COVID losses to business tax revenue lost in the last year. And, for five years in a row, the beginning balance on Fairview’s general fund has been dropping. Think of paying your bills each month, and the amount in your bank account goes down every time you have to write the checks.
As a new councilor, this was my first budget decision. I learned so much - including the fact that a lot of the action is actually found in a second, separate budget we reviewed and approved.
It’s the budget for Fairview’s Urban Renewal Agency, or URA, an agency the city formed in 2018 as a separate municipal corporation. Like URAs across Oregon and the United States, ours is an economic development tool that uses public funds to develop land with the goal of spurring additional private investment. The Oregon Convention Center and Portland’s Downtown Waterfront, for example, are urban renewal projects as is the new Downtown Rockwood development in Gresham.
This year’s Fairview URA budget is $8.2 million, which includes funding for high-risk, high-reward projects for our city, including:
· $1.4 million to complete the purchase of nearly five acres of land at NE Village and NE Halsey Streets to develop into shops, restaurants, a brewery, and a “public market hall” for incubator businesses – a project known as the Heart of Fairview
· $2.8 million to build the Fairview Food Plaza, the food cart pod that is expected to open this fall at 223rd and Halsey
· $500,000 for building a pedestrian and bike lane under-crossing at the 223rd Street railroad bridge
· $500,000 for design work for the new traffic roundabout planned for the intersection of NE Halsey and Fairview Parkway
· $300,000 for design work for the new city well
Urban renewal uses taxes, but doesn't raise them. But I'll explain that later. And will write more on these exciting (and often controversial) urban renewal projects, along with warnings about some frightening fiscal icebergs ahead. Stay tuned. I'm heading to bed!