The city of Redmond did the right thing by deciding to give voters a say on a new public safety fee and to target the fee for the November ballot.
The Redmond City Council could have tacked on a $6 monthly public safety fee to every developed property in town without a vote of the people. Cities in Oregon can do that. Councilors also could have decided to put it on the May ballot.
But it’s just not right to add an important new fee without public support. And by waiting until November, the council gives voters more time to weigh the arguments for and against it.
The city says for each $1 of fee, it will be able to hire one additional police officer. The city wants to add six. A $6 per month fee on every developed property in town would raise about $860,000 a year. The money could be used only to pay for police services. The bill would go out as a line item on the monthly city utility bill for garbage, sewer and water. Discounts would be available for seniors who qualify and for people who live in multifamily housing.
A fee can be a better alternative for the city than an increase in property taxes. An increase in property taxes can lead to reductions for other taxing districts because of a feature of state law. So if police got more funding through an additional property tax, other agencies might lose funding.
The city says staffing levels at the Redmond Police Department have not kept pace with the city’s growth. But there’s no guarantee crime will go down in Redmond if the city has six more police officers. It will, though, likely enable the police to better respond to some incidents and do more patrolling, which will help. The average patrol team officers per shift will go from over three to over four. It would also enable the city to establish a full-time, two-person team dedicated to drug enforcement. That may be an important change that will reduce crime.
Raising taxes is never easy on a community. Redmond’s government deserves credit for resisting any temptation to do it without a public vote.