Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick are considering scrapping the unpopular "street fee" that would charge businesses thousands of dollars a month and replacing it with a monthly business fee of no more than $135 a month.
City officials floated the possibility of the slimmed-down fee Monday at a citizen work group that's trying to find a compromise plan to fund Portland's paving backlog.
The new version of the fee—called a "business entity-based flat fee," or BEFF—would junk the much-despised May proposal to charge businesses based on the number of trips made to them. That plan would cost some businesses as much as $2,600 a month.
The new approach would cap the possible monthly charge to businesses at $135.
It would also limit the costs to non-profits—including churches, who were alarmed at paying the fee—to $55 a month.
The BEFF plan would spread the taxes across a larger swath of companies—including some located outside the city but doing business in Portland—in order to collect the $26.5 million the city's transportation bureau says it needs from businesses and other governments.
Combined with Novick's proposal of charging residents with an income tax that falls mostly on people making more than $250,000 a year, the new plan may provide City Hall with a way to increase transportation funding after a publicity nightmare this spring.
Hales and Novick still hope to generate the new revenue through a council vote, rather than going to the ballot.
Officials from the Portland Bureau of Transportation presented the new plan to a work group Monday afternoon. Ann Sanderson, a Woodstock salon owner serving on the committee, posted the documents to the "Stop Portland Street Fee" Facebook page last night.
"We have asked for more specifics on their new plan," Sanderson wrote, "and we will become experts in this new idea before making a judgement. For now we will only say that it’s… interesting."
Below are several of the documents released to the work group on Monday.