comments from your neighbors

Advice from Rep. Zoe Lofgren

Back in the 1980’s I had the good luck to be assigned by my employer Bechtel to work with Zoe Lofgren, then Santa Clara County, Ca, Supervisor, to implement the first 1/2 cent sales tax in Calif to fund SPECIFIC highway improvements in Santa Clara County to combat horrible congestion.


Now a congresswoman in Washington, Ms. Lofgren in 1984 spearheaded the Measure A highway program. and raised in excess of a $ billion to fund that program of highway improvements, collected the tax for 10 years, then sunsetted. The program was wildly successful. It created the Santa Clara County Traffic Authority run by a three member board of elected officials, One of the Santa Clara County Supervisors (Zoe), a Councilman from San Jose, Ca and a rotating seat for one of the other councilmen from the remaining cities in the county. The Measure A tax law also created a citizens oversight committee to assure that the funds raised could only be spent on the SPECIFIC projects detailed in the law and had to be completed by date certain and the tax then sunsetted. Ted was initially the deputy program manager and eventually the Program manager for the program working for Bechtel hired by the Santa Clara County Traffic Authority.

Ms. Lofgren’s advice to me later as to why the sales tax program was so successful was, first get citizens advisory groups together to determine what are the specific projects that they want solved and funded by the law (Specific Highway interchanges x, y, z. Soundwalks x,y, z, Highways x miles from here to here. No generalities like we are going to work on highways or parks.) This must be done in advance of any Measure vote and the projects list must be written into the Measure. Second, determine how long the citizen’s would support a tax (number of years). Polling was done before voting on the initiative to determine what tax duration was required to raise sufficient funds to build the projects chosen by the citizens. It was shown that citizens would support a tax duration up to 10 years, no longer. Third, designate an independent government entity and specify it in the law, responsible to implement the projects with stakeholders vested in the specific projects  success and fourth, establish a citizen’s oversight committee to verify monthly that funds are only being spent on the projects specifically listed in the law.

Ms. Lofgren created the Santa Clara County Traffic Authority to be the implementing entity, who hired Bechtel to be the program manager and created the oversight committee. In today’s $$, $2 Billion worth of projects were implemented.

Contrasting Congresswoman Lofgren’s advice for a Tax Measure’s success above with our Measure, Measure 15-214 would be doomed to fail. Why:

  1. Advisory group has not established what “specific”projects tax funds should be spent on, and written them into the Measure.
  2. Consulting the community as to the duration of a sales tax that the can be supported by the community has not not been done. Polling of citizens as to tax duration support has not been done.
  3. Designating an independent government entity to be responsible for implementing the SPECIFIC projects in the tax law has not been done.
  4. The Measure does not Establish a citizen’s oversight committed to monitor monthly expenditures against only the specific projects listed in the law.

Measure 15-214 is 0-4 as measured against congresswoman Lofgren’s advice.

Definitely Vote NO on Measure 15-214.

Flabbergasted

A town’s livability requires a sound infrastructure and financial base.

For more than 15 years, city council and more specifically APRC have ignored recurring financial deficits and this ‘argument’ suggests taxpayers give them even more money, and extend the term of the F&B tax for another 10-15 years.

And for the record everything in this argument in favor is already in place. Help me understand, how has your, and other residents, livability been impacted? My livability has been directly impacted by wasteful spending, mismanagement of funds, a golf course running in the red for years, and the deterioration and eventual shuttering of the Daniel Meyer Pool. Let us not forget about the numerous APRC employment lawsuits.

…and they want more money without accountability, simply flabbergasted.

Please vote NO to this Measure

Remember: Ashland residents will again be facing significant increases to our utility charges coming soon. I wonder what the coming year will bring? Perhaps a better use of some of the F&B taxes would be to offset some of those charges. Utility rates, fees, and charges hit those with modest incomes and resources the worst.

I support the F&B going into the General Fund to help where those funds are most needed. I oppose extension of the F&B as this measure does. We can look at whether we want to extend the F&B closer to 2030. It may benefit Ashland more if we honor its end date.

Currently APRC can get up to 73% of the part of the F&B already set aside for them or for streets. That is in addition to property taxes and the 25% set aside just for them. It has already gotten that….. for just this last year….. to correct an error made in the last budget cycle.

There is no need for this proposed change. I think we need to increase its flexibilty ….not wall it off for one “department” with an insatiable thrist for millions more. We should keep things the way they are until better alternatives are considered.

Please vote NO to this Measure. Please do not extend the F&B to 2040. Keep F&B available for use to repair streets. Keep the door open to considering better ways to set up the F&B funds. Do not make a premature decision.

Let’s evaluate the misinformation recently posted by the Yes on Measure 15-214 supporters

First: the YES position makes the assertion that it is a “negative” for the Food & Beverage tax to fund both Streets and Parks as currently approved by voters. That assertion is not accurate. To maintain the current voter supported multiple uses of the FBT, it is necessary to VOTE NO as a YES vote will only fund Parks.

The YES campaign clearly does not understand the definition of “Capital Expenditures”. Capital expenses can be used for the purchase of land, for  construction, for equipment AND for MAINTENANCE of long term assets. (The Hersey project is a local example).  A NO VOTE will continue to allow for MAINTENANCE and repair of our parks and streets.

The supporters of Measure 15-214 position is that street maintenance & repairs can now be covered by the gas tax, the utility fee, and franchise fees. Except for the gas tax, 100% of these fees are paid by Ashland residents with a utility meter. The gas tax is partially offset by car driving visitors.  Supporters for Yes do not highlight that these utility fees are charged only to Ashland residents. By contrast, the F&B Taxes paid are shared between Ashland residents and visitors to Ashland. This “sharing of costs” with visitors was the original selling point of the F&B Tax. This continues to be important and therefore a reason to VOTE NO on Measure 15-214, not yes.

There are significant street and roadway repairs that continue to be needed. The yes campaign is trivializing street repair needs in neighborhoods as minor “filling of potholes”.  With a NO VOTE on Measure 15-214, these “filling of potholes” and pavement rehabilitation projects can be packaged into revenue bond funded projects such as Hersey was so nicely done. It is unfortunate that the yes campaign is trivializing the important Street repairs MAINTENANCE activity, partially funded by visitors.

The Yes campaign continually asserts the F&B Tax can’t be bonded for street repair projects DEBT service. The Yes supporters then turn around and assert the utility bill franchise fees and streets user fee can be used for revenue bonds collateral. All these revenue sources can be bonded to fund STREET MAINTENANCE projects. Again, the only difference is that F&B Tax funded project costs are shared by visitors. The use of franchise fees and street user utility fees are not preferable for use as collateral for bonds. Why? Because 100% of the repayment of the bond principle & interest falls on Ashland residents.

Further misinformation by the Yes campaign: A NO VOTE will NOT put a greater burden on the City general fund if careful discipline is followed regardless of revenue source.  It will require planning for each use of the funds including clear scope of each bond application as was done for Hersey.  As an Engineer PE, I believe this is another reason to VOTE NO. Planning of the scope of expenditures for bonded construction projects bid packages is a good thing and results in best quality at best price. Again, like Hersey.

More misinformation by yes position:  A NO VOTE will complicate the budget process for PARKS in the general fund. The PARKS will have to continue to be involved in the general fund budget process as one of the many government departments. Regardless, this is no reason to not take advantage of the F&B Tax partially underwritten by visitors to continue to fund streets, roads, AND Parks. Again, a reason to VOTE NO.

So, all yes campaign rationale I have read actually supports a NO VOTE on Measure 15-214, not a yes.

However, the BIGGEST reason we must VOTE NO on Measure 15-214 is:

EXTENSION of the tax out to 17 years from now!

{The yes campaign is silent on it and even the 4 Pro arguments in the voter pamphlet are ALL silent on it!}

When discussing Measure 15-214, proponents fail to remind voters it extends the F&B Tax to 2040! That little omission extends the tax out to 17 years from now! 17 Years!

The yes campaign arguments you are reading fail to be open and transparent with voters on the tax continuation for the next 17 years. My grandkids would be repaying DEBT from a FBT revenue bond if we don’t VOTE NO on Measure 15-214.

The FBT extension is a totally unreasonable debt generating request. Any such BONDS placed on FBT would lock up funds for police and fire, because those bonds would have interest DEBT costs that must first be paid back.

A NO VOTE is called for on Measure 15-214.

With a NO VOTE F&B Tax partially underwritten by visitors would continue to fund Streets and Parks with high quality advance scope planning and MAINTENANCE of our long-term assets.

The planned expiration of the F&B Tax will continue to be 2030- 7 years, not 17 years!

There is plenty of time over the next 6 years for voters to decide about the future of the FOOD & BEVERAGE Tax.  A Lot more will be known about Ashland’s real needs in 6 years.

VOTE NO on Measure 15-214. Ballots will be mailed out April 28, 2023.

Ted Hall, PE (retired)

Ballot Measure 15-214

I am voting NO on Ballot Measure 15-214 because it is totally unnecessary to extend it now, and because this measure is unsound in how it proposes to allocate the tax revenues it generates.

Measure 15-214 extends the Food and Beverage Tax expiration year to 2040, seventeen years hence.  The current measure expires, per voter approval, in 2030.  There is no need to rush, no need to decide now, to extend this tax another ten years.  We voters will have better information closer to 2030 and can then make an informed decision.

Measure 15-214 would also dedicate 98%, up from 25%, of AFB tax receipts to the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission. It is interesting to note that many “pro 15-214” statements tout APRC’s achievements and contributions rather than specifically address 15-214’s terms, i.e. why the need to vote NOW to extend this tax, and why a full 98% of the revenues must go to APRC.  These merit-based arguments might be appropriate were we voting to award a cash prize to a high-achieving city department.  But we are not, we are voting on allocation of tax receipts.  APRC should get back in line with our other city departments and accept their share of a need-based allocation of our city tax dollars, as determined by our elected city officials, City Manager, and volunteer Citizen Budget committee.

Please join me in voting NO on Ballot Measure 15-214.

Respectfully submitted,

Debbie Mattsson

Another Priority

On 3/29/23, I read Barbara Cervone’s article “Not Enough Care: Ashland Is a Child Care Desert” in the Ashland Chronicle. (theashlandchronicle.com).  Ms. Cervone details a recent get together with Oregon State Representative Pam Marsh, who met with local parents and daycare providers at the Peace House in Ashland. 

After reading the article, I realized that an ordinance is needed here in Ashland, an ordinance allocating money to childcare. On May 16, 2023, Ashland voters are going to have to decide on whether to give 73% of the F&B tax to Parks. That would mean Parks would receive 98% of the F&B tax.  It is important to remember that right now, APRC has adequate dedicated funding for maintenance and rehabilitation of our beautiful parks without Measure 15-214 passing. Our parks should be looking well maintained now.

Let’s vote “NO” on Measure 15-214 and get to work on re-directing money to provide other essential services and high priorities, including streets, as currently allocated. Why don’t we think “out of the box”? Let’s start a discussion around using the 73% of the F&B that Parks is hungry for and re-dedicate it to providing much needed priorities that are being neglected here in Ashland.

Parks already has 25% of the F&B tax. Parks wants 98% of it….AND…Measure 15-124 tacks on a 10 year extension of the tax you now pay…. out to 2040. 

“NO” vote on Measure 15-214. 

Vote “No” on Measure 15-214

Ashland Parks and Recreation (“APRC”) currently seeks to amend the Ashland Municipal Code (“Code”), Section 4.34.020(C), to obtain 100% of the Food and Beverage Tax (“F&B Tax”), less 2% to the City of Ashland (“City”) for administrative costs.  Under the amendment, 25% could be available for parks’ capital improvement costs and 73% could be available for not only capital improvement costs, but also maintenance and operation costs, as well.     

Under existing law, Section 4.34.020(C), APRC is entitled to receive “no less than 25%” of the F&B Tax for parks’ capital improvement expenses, plus the remaining 73% could also be used for park capital improvement expenses and/or the city’s street repair debt.  (Again, 2% goes to the City for administrative costs.)  Therefore, if the money is not needed for street repair debt, APRC could receive 73% of the F&B money for capital improvement expenses, the same as under the proposed amendment, but the money could not be used for operations and maintenance expenses.

Voting “No” is much more advantageous to the City and Ashland citizens. It would allow the City to have the option to use 73% of the F&B Tax money for streets or give it to APRC for capital improvement costs.  By contrast, if the amendment is approved, street repairs would have to be paid with increased franchise fees charged to utility companies, as was done in the FY2021/2023 City budget to temporarily give APRC 98% of the F&B Tax.  Of course, the increased franchise fees will be passed onto Ashland citizens in the form of increased utility bills. By voting “No,” the F&B Tax would continue to be the dedicated source for the Street Fund with no new fee burdens on the citizens and APRC could still receive 98% of the F&B Tax for capital improvement costs if money was not needed for streets. 

The City indicated in the FY2021/2023 budget report that there would be a corresponding decrease in property tax money for the additional 73% F&B Tax money APRC would temporarily receive in the last budget.  However, there is nothing in the proposed amendment to Section 4.34.020(C) that says there would be corresponding decrease in property tax money for the additional 73% in F&B Tax money APRC would receive.  Moreover, as long as the City Charter, which gives APRC the right to a percentage of the property tax, is not amended, it is the law.  Even the recent City Budget report stated that it would need to “Adopt an ordinance directing the specific allocation of property tax millage to be transferred to the Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission on a stepwise decreasing schedule.”  (See p. 25 of the budget report)  This ordinance has not been passed.  Therefore, it is possible for APRC to double dip into the property tax money and get the full F&B Tax if the amendment is approved.

Through approval of Measure 15-214, APRC is also seeking to extend collection of this tax to 2040.  The current tax is effective until 2030.  This double-dipping taxation should not be allowed to be extended.  Vote “No” on Measure 15-214.

Finally, it is self-serving for APRC to seek the lion’s share of the F&B Tax through this amendment before the citizens of Ashland have had an opportunity to see the proposed budget and where the shortfalls lie.  This Special Ballot Measure is set for vote in May and the City’s budget and shortfalls will not be revealed until June. 

As stated in the approved City’s budget for FY2021/2023, the City has a structural imbalance of $2,000,000.  This imbalance or gap grows to over $3.5 million by the end of that biennium and triggers a deficit position by FY2024-2025 if the inherent disconnect between revenues and expenditures is not fixed. The budget report states, “Simply put, the City of Ashland cannot afford the high level of services it has historically enjoyed under the existing funding structure.”  

The City did not even have enough funds last year to purchase another desperately needed fire truck for $700,000 without dipping into the City’s emergency (contingency) funds. 

Yet, by asking for all of the F&B Tax, APRC is saying, forget the City’s budget crisis or citizens’ ability to pay more fees for good streets; give us more money. APRC wanted $14 million in the previous approved budget.  Now they want $16 million, a staggering $2 million more for the biennium, even given the City’s deficit.

APRC is grabbing tax dollars with both fists.  With one fist, APRC is currently grabbing $5,552,939 in FY23 from our property taxes. This amounted to approximately 44 per cent of the total property tax rate.  As stated, these taxes are allowed under the City of Ashland’s Charter.  An ordinance reducing property taxes in proportion to the increase of F&B tax dollars if the amendment is approved has NOT been approved by City Council.

With the other fist, APRC is now seeking approval of Measure 15-214 to grab 100% of the F&B Tax money (less 2% in administrative fees collected by the City) by amending Section 4.34.020(C) of the F&B Tax in the Code. In APRC’s February 21, 2023 meeting, Director Black revealed that the anticipated F&B Tax resources available for FY2023/2025 would be $6,219,824.  He said, this figure, $6,219,824, is based on $2,240,000 currently sitting in their F&B piggy bank; $2,390,000 to be received from the City as a result of their budget change, and $750,000/$800,000 coming in during FY2023/2025.  In short, in addition to the $5,552,939 from property taxes, APRC will have $6,219,824 from F&B Taxes for FY2023/2025. 

In addition to the property tax and the F&B Tax, APRC also has other sources of funding for FY2023/2025.  These include:  $8,000,000 from Bonds, $384,878 from System Developmentt Charges (SDC), $691,100 from Land Sales, and $1,700,000 from Grants. When is it enough?

In closing, I recommend a “No” Vote on Measure 15-214 for all of the reasons discussed above.

Loretta Barlow

Is a parks district with its own tax rate the next step?

Recently, a city councilor remarked when he voted for placing the F&B tax revenue reassignment from street repair and maintenance to parks about easing a path for the pool. All five of the APRC commissioners have ranked a $10 million pool as its top priority goal.  APRC is speaking about combining $2 million currently in their CIP fund and financing $8 million in revenue bonds. At 6.5%, it could be an additional $4 million for interest payments at $800,000 a year for 15 years.

In 2018, parks attempted to “piggyback” $3 million onto the ASD construction bond.  In early 2020, the council approved parks proposal for a $2.6 revenue bond for the pool.  However, Covid delayed this expenditures because it relied on the 25% F&B tax revenue for debt service repayment. In Dec. 2020, a pool design was presented and the cost had ballooned to $4.5-$5.5 million. 

Now, based on inflation  commissioners’ guesstimate the pool cost will be $10 million.  They have presented no information regarding expenses to operate, heat and filtrate a pool that will contain three times as much water as the present Daniel Meyer Pool because it will be much bigger and eight feet deep in some areas.  This proposal is also lacking maintenance and/or staffing costs.  A new aquatics director and many more life guards will be need to be hired. 

 

Another councilor and a former mayor have stated that eventually a parks and recreation district will be proposed.  A district has it’s own tax rate percentage placed on your property taxes.  You will be paying an assessment for the city and parks.

 

APRC’s argument is if there is a financial downturn, their department can pivot more easily than others in the city. They can eliminate positions quicker. However, they will have boxed themselves into a large debt service for the pool with less employees. It doesn’t make sense to me.

I voted for all of the previous F&B tax ballot measures especially the last one that increased parks percentage from 20% to 25%.  Additionally, when the waste water treatment debt service was paid off revenues would be available to pay for street repair, rehabilitation and reconstruction. “The street repair program would apply to the City’s arterial and collector streets.”   

I will be voting no on 15-214 to preserve the F&B tax revenue for the flexibility to spend on streets and/other necessary city projects.

Patricia Turner

It’s a NO for me

In May, we’re being asked to extend a Food And Beverage Tax for ten additional years and give all the money but a small admin. fee to the Parks Department.

To be clear: the parks folks want to have more money. Fair enough, I can’t blame them.

But what makes more sense to me would be to use the Food and Beverage tax to support restaurants and their workers. After all, restaurant workers and owners have had a tough time since the pandemic and they collect the tax for the City of Ashland and get nothing in return. In fact, if they’re late to pay, they receive hefty fines.

If the City of Ashland put a measure on the ballot to use the Food and Beverage tax to build houses that restaurant workers could afford to live in–I’d for sure check the yes box. That makes sense. Every time I eat out, I’d think about how cool it is that I’m helping subsidize a roof over a person’s head who is serving me.

Direct and clear lines between how I spend my money and benefit is an easy thing to support.

I can take my grandkids to any number of great parks and trails in cities all over Southern Oregon and take them out to eat after, without paying a food and beverage tax. If those other cities figured it out, why can’t Ashland?

As of now I’m voting NO on the Food and Beverage Tax and I truly don’t say that to hurt anyone’s feelings. But trust me, the parks will not go away nor starve to death nor any such thing. They get most of the property taxes we pay anyway and they’ll continue to get more money from the city in myriad other ways.

Frankly, I wish they did more.  If they offered concerts in the park and lively happenings on our public spaces, if they were fighting for the Community Center so we, the people, could use it for the important events in our lives-that would be a good start.

Saying No doesn’t make me on one team or another, it just makes me a person who wants to know the direct benefit of where my money is going and I don’t think spending it all on parks makes sense. There are streets and fire departments and police and housing and businesses to support too.

Giving all the money to parks seems unfair to me so I just can’t support it.

Julie Akins

Ashland Resident

Just a few of many reasons I will be voting NO

  Just a few of many reasons I will be voting NO on measure15-214!

                 We all love our parks!

       We are a small community, that is so fortunate to have over 800 acres of trails and open spaces, with 41 existing parks!

        The Ashland Parks and Recreation, has met their goal of a park within one quarter mile, from every household. Nice.

      We want our parks maintained and in repair.  We need APRC to stop laying off grounds keepers, outsourcing for restrooms and garbage, and reduce their top heavy Administration!

     Most all of their offices have moved into our cities Grove, rent free!

    Why did Dir Black, during a Special APRC meeting on 2-21-23, request the Community Center and our Pioneer Hall, to be turned over to the parks, and ”the ground beneath them?”

        When our City Mngr requested for all departments reduce their budgets, the APRC increased theirs to $16,602,660 for yrs 24-25, an 11% increase!

       This budget includes 25% of the Food and Beverage Tax, and a portion of our property taxes.

       Why has the APRC requested a Special Ballot Measure for May, NOW requesting 98% of the FnB Tax, and adding another 10 yrs, extending this to the year 2040?

     Where will our City of Ashland’s budget be for the next 17yrs?

     Where will our US economy be for the next 17yrs?

  This Special Election the APRC wants so badly, is prior to our City of Ashland finalizing their/our own budget!

      Why couldn’t the APRC wait for the November elections?

  Will the parks ever have their Grandiosa needs met, many that I have not addressed here?

    For these few reasons I’ve mentioned, I cannot possibly vote the parks, continued requests for MORE n MORE!

   I will be Voting No, on this Special Ballot Measure 15-214!

       Thanks,

Nancy K Boyer

I love our parks!

I love our parks! I run or walk on the trails almost every day!

However, I am opposed to allocating 98% of the Food and Beverage tax (FBT) to Ashland Parks and Recreation District (APRD) for three reasons:

  1. The only serious review of the APRD budget occurs when APRD makes its annual request for property tax distribution. For whatever reason, citizens are not lining up to run for seats on the Parks commission, so the commission as it currently stands is not accountable to voters in any meaningful way: they are earnest volunteers. In the very dry meetings I have watched, I have not observed any serious pushback to Director Black’s proposed expenditures. They seem to represent a constituency believing that Parks should be the last place to tighten belts when money is scarce. At least the City Council has to face contested elections and defend their choices.
  2. Article 19, Section 3 of the City Charter states that the City may allocate APRD up to 4.5 mills on the dollar for park purposes. I don’t see any mention of amending the Charter to remove this entitlement if the FBT is completely allocated to APRD, so potentially APRD could ask for funds beyond FBT if, for example, Ashland has a weak FBT year. As Director Black noted in the February 2023 meeting, mill levys are a percentage of property values, and property values almost always increase; therefore, even if the percentage is fixed, the actual dollars generally increase from year to year as well. It seems that property tax would be a more reliable funding source, the only problem being the need to justify expenditures to the Council. And Council must fund the Parks, but the Parks commission may “cause a careful estimate to be made of the money required for park purposes for the ensuing year and file the same with the City Recorder.” There is no similar requirement for publicly accessible budgets in the FBT proposal.
  3. Permanently devoting a funding stream to any one area reduces Council flexibility to shift money around in times of need. If we trust them enough to elect them, we should trust them enough to decide when those accommodations must be made.

I am not opposed to being taxed and before I retired from teaching, I paid income tax at a higher rate than Mitt Romney without complaint!  However, I believe that expenditures of public funds require true oversight.

Laura Duncan

George Kramer – Vote NO

Vote NO on Ashland 15-214, Food & Beverage Tax

The Ashland Parks Commission wants you to believe that shifting the Meals Tax to fund parks will protect parks.  It won’t.  It will pay for staff salaries and, more likely, debt service for a new swimming pool.  And it will extend the tax for another decade.

Shifting this tax, and extending it, will limit the city’s own funding choices and, almost certainly, put pressure on Ashland residents to pay more in utility taxes to cover the city’s already stretched finances.  Utility rates are non-discretionary and regressive.  Ashland is already an expensive place to live and this will drive even more of our neighbors out.

I love the parks.  Everyone loves the parks.  But Ashland needs to pay for essential services like police and fire, and road repair before it gives the parks department even more money.

VOTE NO on 15-214.  Keep the city’s flexibility to pay for what it needs, not what parks wants.  And don’t extend the tax by a decade when our restaurants are already struggling.

George Kramer

Ashland, OR