Hermiston Considering Additional Sources to Raise Revenue

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With the city wanting to add police officers while facing a budget shortfall, the Hermiston City Council held a work session on Monday to consider options to raise revenue.

Chief among those options is implementing fees for various services. City Manager Byron Smith said a 2021 League of Oregon Cities survey found 67 cities have some type of fee citizens pay to support a range of services including libraries, parks and recreation, streets and, most commonly, the police.

The size of cities using fees to boost revenues range in size from Echo to Beaverton, said Smith.

“This is a primary way to grow revenue,” said Smith.

Monday’s work session was a chance for the councilors to discuss possible options. No decisions will be made on implementing fees until later in the year. The budget gap facing the city is about $700,000. Smith said the city won’t be trying to make up the entire shortfall through additional revenue sources.

“We will be able to do some internal cutting,” he said in an email to Northeast Oregon Now on Tuesday.

Smith said both Pendleton and Stanfield have fees that support public safety. Stanfield has a police fee of $8.50 per month. Pendleton has a $12.85 monthly fee. That revenue is split between streets and public safety.

Another consideration is whether a fee should be a flat fee or tiered.

“You could make it a flat fee so it’s the same for the person using $100 worth of water a month as it is for the person using $500 worth of water a month,” Smith said. “Or you can tier it in different ways so that its impact is different to the different groups That’s something Pendleton and Tualitan did.”

One option, said Smith, is to implement a 1% fee on water/sewer usage. That, said Smith, would generate about $102,500 annually.

Councilor Nancy Peterson said no one likes to pay more, but a growing city does cost money.

“It’s not just about treading water,” Peterson said. “It’s about doing well. We need to look at it that way.”

Other potential revenue sources include implementing a gas tax or marijuana tax, both of which would require a vote by the citizens.

Councilor David McCarthy asked if adding a marijuana tax would mean allowing dispensaries to operate in town. Several years ago, the council banned the sale of marijuana inside the city limits.

Smith said it would.

“You can implement a tax on marijuana, but if there are no dispensaries, there is nothing to tax,” Smith said.

Requiring business licenses is another possible option, but that could also mean adding staff to implement the license program and to enforce it.

Councilor Doug Primmer pushed back on the idea of charging residents any new fees.

“So, the bottom line is, we’re trying to charge people more for what they’re already getting,” Primmer said. “A franchise fee, to me, is something we’re charging an outside entity to use our stuff. We’re going to charge ourselves for this? That doesn’t wash with me. That’s the same to me as raising the rates again.”

Smith said he was just presenting options to the council.

Mayor Dave Drotzmann said the city is also looking to hire additional police officers and the current budget requires the city to look for ways to generate more revenue.

“We have a budget shortfall,” he said. “So, we have to look at other revenue options.”

6 COMMENTS

  1. Maybe the city should charge a fee to those nice people who live in all the parks? Like a motel charges for a room. When can we have our parks back, by the way? We’re already paying for them and we can’t use them. Paying more for them is out of the question.

    A city is not a for profit business. There are 20000 people paying plenty already. If there is a budget shortfall, there may be a hole in the bucket. Rather than charging citizens more, an audit should reveal where the money goes. Does a family charge more when their budget gets upside down? No, they tighten the budget and go on. It would be easy to imagine that if a family budget was 1,000,000,000 dollars, it could seem like not enough once they got used to having that much. They would want more. It’s not what they need, however. What they need is to learn to live on what they have.

    Why can’t the city come up with ways to make money without charging more for what is already being paid for? Saving money is more profitable than recieving additonal money.
    The way we make money is to earn it. Try that. You’ll value every dollar.
    We do not have any more money for you.

    • Totally agree with B Simpson. Out taxes are already outrageous plus all of our utilities have been doubled in the past few years, now you are asking for more? Good Gawd when does it end? 9 million for a new city hall. 97 million to operate new schools left and right. Us that have families cant even use the well kept beautiful parks we pay for because of all the bums ?!? Really? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer all because we need the most expensive money can buy???
      What is wrong with saving the money. When you have enough then pay for what is needed?
      I agree that the overspending needs to stop !!!!

      • Typical government. It’s easy to spend other people’s money. And I agree that it’s a disgrace that we can’t even take our kids to the city park that we pay taxes on already. Disgusting! No more taxes or fees! My water bill has doubled so I had to let half of my yard die off. I made that choice to save money, maybe it’s time to tighten the belts of this city

  2. This article is a perfect example of municipal government out of control. They sit in their meetings and discuss ways of making more money. Really? Who owns the city? It’s the people. Why then, are they not discussing ways that the city can better serve the people? There were people paying $500 a month for water not long ago. Maybe they still are. At the same time, water rights were granted to a big coorperation to sink a big well in a critical groundwater area near town. Really?
    Residents of a city are not supposed to be ensnared in a trap where they are preyed upon by an out of control government, they are supposed to be happily living in a city they are proud of.
    I too have long believed that an audit should be held. What’s missing in our town is not money, it’s accountability.

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