NORTH BEND — Some folks in North Bend have started to feel the brunt of an increase to the city’s public safety fee, which rose to $30 a month back in March.
Although the decision to increase happened two months ago some citizens are just starting to see the increase, because of how the city prorated the fees for the month of April.
“Depending on when you got your bill in April, the public safety fee was prorated, now in May everybody will have the full $30 amount,” North Bend city administrator Terence O’Connor said.
Coinciding with the city’s five year plan the council elected to raise the public safety fee in March from $15 a month to $30 a month.
“At the end of our five year plan we’ll have all new contracts with police, fire, and public works, and we’re going to negotiate that city workers will have to pick up six percent of their retirement costs that are presently being picked up by the city, and if we can do that it would save what would amount to another $5 per month per utility,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said that there are no plans to increase public safety fees again within the five year plan.
The public safety departments in North Bend, which include police and fire, account for 70 percent of the city’s budget. North Bend police and fire chiefs Robert Kappelman and Mark Meeker presented to the council a number of options to cut costs, all of which would result in severe staffing cuts that would drastically affect service.
“After seeing the presentations from the chiefs the council did what it felt was necessary to retain police and fire services as they exist right now,” O’Connor said.
Discussing some of the things the city looked into when preparing for this increase, O’Connor said that if a North Bend property owner’s property is worth $150,000 or less it would be cheaper for them to pay for public safety through a property tax instead of a fee.
“If your property is worth $150,000 you would pay less in property taxes than you would in fees. If your property is worth more than $150,000 in assessed value you’re better off paying the fee. In some cases it would amount to the difference of hundreds of dollars more in property tax payment than if you had fees, so council felt that it would be better for everyone to pay the same rate,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said that fees like North Bend’s public safety fee have become very common throughout the state of Oregon, the main reason being PERS increases.
“Unless the State of Oregon changes the way it collects and distributes taxes to its cities, I don’t think these fees will ever go away,” O’Connor said.