The Metro Council met earlier this week to decide on the level of funding they'd like a proposed May 2013 levy
to provide for operating and maintenance funds for open space
the regional government owns.
The council voted unanimously on Tuesday set the rate at 9.6 cents per $1,000 of valuation. The levy would raise $10 million annually for five years. The owner of a $200,000 house, for example, would pay an extra $19.20 a year.
But if Metro moves forward with the levy, it will do so despite the objections of 19 mayors within Metro's three-county service area, including those in Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro and Lake Oswego—effectively every city of any size except Portland within Metro's boundaries. Here is the letter the mayors sent Metro Council President Tom Hughes
on Nov. 30:
November 30, 2012
RE: Metro Natural Area Levy
Dear President Hughes:
Please accept this letter into the record for consideration on your proposed Metro Natural Area Levy scheduled for a Metro Council meeting in December.
The Regional Mayors’ group met and discussed the Levy proposal at its meeting in November. Metro Council President Tom Hughes and COO, Martha Bennett were in attendance and discussed the proposed Levy. Significant concerns were raised by the Mayors at that time and the group is unanimously requesting a delay in the Levy decision until further impacts to cities are evaluated. The current compression analysis was conducted using last year’s tax data and did not include the results of the tax measures passed in November (emphasis added).
As you are aware, some Metro area cities are more impacted by compression than others. As a result, the financial burden for the levy would not fall evenly on households and their communities across the region. Some cities would have their ability to raise revenue for vital police and fire protection services substantially limited as a result of having additional regional levies on the books.
In addition to concerns regarding compression, the plan for the remaining natural area’s bond purchases and impacts on long term maintenance needs are still unclear to our group. Without further information and clarity regarding the plan for past voter‐approved investments, it is hard for us to see the value in asking voters for additional resources.
We also feel that, preceding any discussions about future revenue for Metro, we would encourage the Metro elected officials to sit down early next year with local elected officials to review and discuss their respective governmental roles in the region; where are they aligned, and where is there conflict, potential or actual.
We believe that Metro can be helpful in a
number of areas, but we remain concerned that those areas of assistance should be in partnership and coordination with local government.
Thank you for this opportunity to provide our input.
Jerry W. Willey, Mayor City of Hillsboro [and 18 others].Mike Houck, executive director of the Urban Greenspaces Institute, and a longtime advocate for Metro's open spaces program, took issue with the mayors' letter.
"Your letter would take us back to the 1980s when petty parochialism led to a lack of consensus on the importance of a regional approach to natural area parks and natural resource management," Houck wrote on Dec. 5.
I have reviewed both the research conducted by Metro staff and heard how the levy will be spent.
"The research regarding alleged fiscal impacts on local jurisdictions reveals that concerns over compression is clearly a red herring. Data demonstrates that compression is not an issue in many communities and that even in communities currently under compression the impacts are negligible