A couple of years ago, North Bend City Council needed funds to hire two police officers. They came upon the idea of using the Water Board customer base and applying a flat fee of $5. Several of us objected to the inequity of charging a renter (no equity) with a water bill, but not a dweller in a multi-unit such a hotel, the same $5 as a big business with a lot of people and equipment. How ludicrous is that? Yet, Councilman Erbele was the only one that recognized the inequity. But he probably accepted being overruled because it was “only” $5.
Crime is caused by people and property. This base disregards both elements. While it is difficult to account for the people element, the property tax roll is a simple and accessible way to account for property.
Another problem is the finite limitation of this base. Predictably, a few months ago they simply raised it to $15. Calling it a safety fee, they now want to raise it to $25, but for the first time will have the people vote for the $10 raise in November. The inequity stings as the renter, the million dollar home dweller and Safeway each pay $25 (and the Safeway employees, too!).
The people will turn down this last hike in November but North Bend will be left with an inequitable flat fee of $15 and a shortage in the safety budget. Councilman Slater suggested a bond as a better source but the Council has not put it on the ballot and that will take time. An immediate solution is needed. Perhaps to adjust the flat fee to a graduated one based on property.
And beware not to follow Coos Bay’s most ridiculous application of this flawed base for a road fee! Can you imagine charging someone without a car the same flat fee as a company with a fleet of trucks and equipment to fix the road?