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About Keizertimes. (Salem, Or.) 1979-current | View Entire Issue (March 10, 2017)
PAGE A12, KEIZERTIMES, MARCH 10, 2017
City fees! On your utility bill?
Take a deep breath. Here’s what you need to know.
By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
For the better part of a year
– and in the case of Keizer parks
much longer – city offi cials and
advisory boards have been dis-
cussing ways to make more
money available for the Keizer
Police Department and Keizer
Both services are paid for
out of the city’s general fund
and changing the amounts al-
located to each isn’t as easy as
it might seem. The city oper-
ates on a tight budget and an-
nual additional contributions
to the state’s Public Employee
Retirement System (PERS)
have made it diffi cult to expand
funding for either department.
The result is that Keizer Po-
lice Department is understaffed
by most measures and Keizer
parks face increasing challenges
as limited staffi ng and budget
have led to deferring mainte-
nance on some park amenities.
From the start, Mayor Cathy
Clark said she didn’t want to see
the funding of the departments
become an either/or discussion.
“This is not a debate of po-
lice vs. parks – both are livability
issues, both are valid parts of our
community – and I don’t want
to set this up as adversarial,”
Clark said at a meeting of the
Keizer City Council in August
To create more funding for
both parks and police, the city
council, city staff and advisory
boards have been researching
and discussing the possibility of
creating fees that would funnel
additional funding into dedi-
cated funds. There is still a long
road ahead, but here is a primer
on what’s happened to this
point and how to get involved.
What options were con-
In the case of parks, both
bonds and establishing a parks
taxing district were considered.
Both were rejected for different
reasons. Bonds cannot pay for
operational costs and those are
the heart of the parks’ woes. A
bond could pay for a new ten-
nis court, but not the staff time
needed to maintain it. The tax-
ing district was rejected because
of the additional overhead it
would create that would add to
In regard to police, fees are
really the only option because
most of the money would pay
for salaries and benefi ts for new
offi cers, which are operational
Why doesn’t the city just
It can’t. Bond measures
passed in the mid-1990s locked
in property tax rates (in Keizer’s
case $2.08 per thousand dol-
lars of assessed value) and the
amounts at which property
values can increase on an an-
nual basis (3 percent). Recently,
additional payments to PERS
have eaten up the lion’s share
of the annual property value in-
creases that Keizer receives.
Wouldn’t residents get
to vote on whether the city
can charge fees?
Not necessarily. The city
council has the power to enact
fees within its jurisdiction. The
council could choose to seek
an advisory vote, but the results
would not be binding. An advi-
sory vote would also add to the
How would the fees be
That remains to be deter-
mined. Adding the fee to util-
ity bills the city already issues
for water would save process-
ing, postage and printing costs.
Parks nearing crisis situation
What fee amounts are
Amounts discussed so far
range from no fee to $8 per
Can I provide input?
Yes. The city has sent out
a survey to residents in their
bi-monthly utility bills in
December and January. Fill it
out and return it to city hall,
or visit www.keizer.org and
click on the scrolling banner
at the top of the page to be
taken to the survey and infor-
mational materials. Residents
have until March 15 to com-
plete the survey.
Why is additional fund-
Keizer parks are in some-
thing akin to a fi nancial cri-
sis. Many maintenance proj-
ects have been deferred for
several years and the cost of
completing them grows with
each deferment. The cost of a
recent restoration project in
the parking lot on the south
end of Claggett Creek Park
doubled in the span of a year
as deterioration accelerated.
Parks are facing similar chal-
lenges throughout the city.
Who takes care of the
Currently, Keizer has two
full-time employees provid-
ing maintenance and over-
sight to 240 acres of parks.
An additional 3-4 seasonal
employees are hired to help
with the busiest parks seasons,
spring to fall. Parks employees
are also responsible for main-
tenance at the Keizer Civic
What will happen with-
out additional funding?
Without an infusion of
new funding, city staff has
said regular maintenance will
decrease, including basics like
regular mowing and debris
removal. Additionally, play
structures, courts and other
amenities will be closed or
removed as they reach the
end of their life out of safety
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However, the city council could
also set it up as a separate bill.
How will the fees be as-
In the case of parks, the fees
would be charged per residen-
tial dwelling, including apart-
ments. In the case of the police
fee, city staff has suggested as-
sessing the fee to all residential
and commercial properties.
Will my water be cut off
if I don’t pay the fee?
City staff has assured the city
council that no one would have
their water cut off for failure to
pay the fees.
How much would it cost
me per year?
If the city council enacted
both fees at the highest amounts
already discussed, it would add
$140 annually – $11.67 per
month – to the average resi-
dent’s utility bills.
KPD wants 5 ofﬁ cers
What fee amounts are
The amount currently on
the table would be $3.67 per
month. That works out to $44
per year or about 12 cents per
Can I provide input?
The city hasn’t addressed
this issue formally since Au-
gust 2016, but there will likely
be numerous opportunities for
public comment as talks of the
fee move forward.
Why is additional fund-
By most measures, Keizer
Police Department is under-
staffed. The 37 offi cers the city
budgets for averages about one
offi cer per 1,000 residents. Na-
tional averages are 2.35 offi cers
per thousand residents, even
Oregon averages 1.65 offi cers
per thousand residents.
How would additional
offi cers affect services?
First, don’t expect an imme-
diate drop in crime. More offi -
cers would allow KPD to pro-
vide better customer service.
In practice, it would mean that
a property crimes detective
would show up at your door in
the event of a burglary rather
than a patrol offi cer.
What would the fee pay
The fee would cover the
wages, health insurance, retire-
ment benefi ts and payroll taxes
of fi ve new offi cers. Two offi -
cers would be added to night
patrols, one would be added
to the traffi c safety unit, one
would be assigned to the Com-
munity Response Unit, and
one would be a property crime
detective. (For a full account of
the specifi c roles of those offi -
cers, see the Keizertimes story
12 cents a day = fi ve new cops at
How serious is the staff-
Keizer Police Chief John
Teague characterized the situa-
tion as grave, but not dire.
The result of the low staff-
ing has increased workloads for
the existing Keizer offi cers and