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January 26th, 2011 BETH SLOVIC | City Hall
 

Leaf Us Alone

How many Portlanders have paid the new leaf removal fee.

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More than a month after street sweepers passed through Portland’s “leaf districts” to clear fallen foliage, only 37 percent of assessed property owners have paid the new removal fee.

By comparison, almost the same percentage—35 percent—of the 30,000 assessed property owners have withheld their payments, ranging from $15 to $65, under an opt-out provision.

And 28 percent of billed residents have simply ignored requests for payment, according to the latest figures from the city.

That all means Portland’s Bureau of Transportation has raised $335,000 from the new program—less than half of its $800,000 goal.

But residents peeved about the new charge for about 15 percent of the city’s households say they’re surprised the city has collected even that much.

Julie Poust, one such resident, owns a bungalow in the Colonial Heights neighborhood of Southeast Portland. She says she’s not opposed to paying for services like leaf removal. But she “ranted and raved” when she got a $30 bill last year because her block has no street trees. She then opted out of the program, along with 10,499 others.

Officials with the city’s Transportation Bureau caution these numbers are preliminary. They expect a more complete breakdown late next month. However, preliminary bureau budgets are due Jan. 31, and staffers have drafted financial scenarios for fiscal year 2011 that include lower revenue estimates for leaf-removal services.

Even Portlanders who paid the fee are grumbling. Eastmoreland resident Robert McCullough owns one house on Reed College Place divided by a median strip with city-owned trees, and a second house with no street trees. “I had to pay twice,” he says, “once for leaves that weren’t there and once for leaves that weren’t mine.”

 
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