May 15th, 2014 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: City Hall, Schools, Transportation

Portland Street Fee Would Create Big Bills for Other Local Governments

UPDATE: Mayor Charlie Hales says city won't collect fee until July 2015

portland_international_airport_canopy_wide_-_oregon04Portland International Airport - M. O. Stevens

Local government agencies are discovering the City of Portland plans to charge them what could be hundreds of thousands of dollars a year under Mayor Charlie Hales' proposed "street fee" plan.

Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick have for months been showing citizens the structure of the fee, which would charge households up to $12 a month and businesses much more.

They've been less vocal about who else would be taxed under the proposal: other local governments.

Sources say some agencies have been blindsided by this news. A Portland Public Schools official tells WW the school district has been told it would be charged between $300,000 and $400,000 a year.

The proposal is unusual because government agencies often can't levy taxes against each other. But the Portland Bureau of Transportation confirms that it plans to charge the fee to governments.

"Yes, the street fee proposal would apply to all road users," says Portland Bureau of Transportation spokeswoman Diane Dulken, "and that includes other governments, school districts and universities."

Portland transportation officials this week began meeting with those governments—some of which had no idea they'd be paying a new fee.

Among the public agencies now being told: Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland State University and the Port of Portland.

Novick and PBOT director Leah Treat met this morning with officials from the Port of Portland, the agency that runs marine terminals and the Portland International Airport.

Port officials say they have been discussing the fee for some time with city staff, but they don't yet know how much they would have to pay.

"We are not opposed to the concept but we need to examine some legal questions and other details before we could say we are supportive," says Curtis Robinhold, the Port's deputy executive director. "We will want to make sure the money is dedicated specifically for transportation and not used for other purposes."

Under the current street fee proposal, the Port and other governments would be charged on the same scale as private businesses—using a metric that multiplies the square footage of their property with the number of car visits it produces.

One Portland Public Schools official tells WW that the city informed the district it would be charged between $300,000 and $400,000 a year. The official says PPS wasn't told how that figure was calculated, and it came as a surprise to the district.

Hales and Novick have said they're willing to pass the street fee without a public vote, because the need for road maintenance and traffic-safety improvements is so urgent.

WW examined those claims earlier this month.  

UPDATE, 3:30 pm: Mayor Charlie Hales tells WW he has personally spoken to leaders at Portland Public Schools, Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland State University and the Port of Portland about the city's plans to levy the fee.

"I informed them that, if we do go through with this, we won’t collect the fee before July 1, 2015," Hales says. "We would give citizens, businesses and public agencies plenty of time to adjust their budgets.”

WW staff writer Nigel Jaquiss contributed to this report.

 
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