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District 5 stokes fear in urban renewal debate

In 1990 a majority of Oregon voters decided to pit all the jurisdictions that deliver public services into a free-for-all mud wrestling brawl for money. Passage of Measure 5 started a decade of anti-tax measures that also gutted education funding and school districts’ self determination.

The mud-slinging in the current brawl between Talent Urban Renewal and Fire District 5 is a great example of the effects of anti-tax legislation and also how Measure 5 made our taxing system impenetrable to most people. I can’t imagine how parents with full time jobs view government. No one in full time survival mode has the time and energy to understand “compression” and “incremental financing,” the basis of taxation under Measure 5 and urban renewal agencies.

Fire District 5 spent some bank on direct mail in Talent recently, accusing the Talent Urban Renewal Agency of using tax money from Talent residents “to solely benefit the city of Talent.” Imagine, the gall of an entity whose mission is to end blight and support community development, attempting to do just that. The anonymous letter being left on Talent’s doors also cherry-picks information and stokes fear, not helpful for residents who are trying to figure it out while cooking, working, ferrying, worrying …

If you’re a property taxpayer in Talent you already know that Fire District 5 gets the same amount of money from Talent property owners that the City of Talent gets — there’s a $4 difference on our tax bill. So, for the same amount Talent spends for police, water, parks, roads, administration and planning. District 5 fights fires in Talent.

District 5’s income from property tax would be $207 million over the 30-years of TURA if property taxes remained flat, but they don’t — they increase by 3%t annually. Fire District 5’s property tax income for the current fiscal year is a 7.8% increase over its previous budget.

The $17 million from Talent that is causing all the heartburn at the fire station is property taxes from 24% of Talent, which is 0.319 square miles or 444 acres. Fire District 5’s tax base is 200 square miles. That’s 128,000 acres, larger than 17 countries in the world. They will still collect the maximum amount they can levy, along with 3% annual increases, from 76% of Talent properties. I think they will be OK.

The lives of Talent’s least wealthy residents were uprooted and flung in all directions by the Almeda Drive fire. They have not returned to normal, and won’t, without this one time opportunity afforded the Urban Renewal Agency by post-fire legislation, designed specifically to make all us all whole again.

Fighting fires is admirable, and our firefighters are well-compensated union employees. I love unions because they guarantee a living wage and health care for members and members’ families. Keep in mind that the rebuilding going on in Talent is homes of people, like firefighters, who earn living wages and can afford insured homes.

Ask yourself: Which jurisdiction has a transparent and specific plan for property taxes that will directly improve the lives of Talent’s residents, especially those who are the most impacted by the Almeda fire and which one just wants to make sure they get all of the money they can get just to keep doing their jobs.

Joi Riley is a member of the Talent Budget Committee and a former char of the Planning Commission.