Bend City Councilors intend to put a fuel tax measure on the City of Bend ballot in March, due to a council vote Wednesday night.
The motion to put a fuel tax on the ballot in March passed 4-3, with Bend City Councilors Casey Roats, Doug Knight and Victor Chudowsky opposed. However, a resolution will not be voted on until December.
It’s council’s responsibility to decide whether or not to put something on the ballot, and then it’s up to the people to decide, said Mayor Jim Clinton. He said he was also in support of the other elements of a transportation package and agreed the community needs to look into them in great detail and find funding mechanisms.
“We have a historical, structural funding problem with street maintenance,” he said. “It’s a big concern. It’s recognized community-wide as a big problem. The only solution I see is to ask the voters if they want to use a fuel tax to solve that structural problem … Our historical funding patterns in Bend and funding sources, just are not large enough to fund both public safety and street maintenance to the level we now need.”
Clinton said the City has grown in population and in the number of visitors, which compounded with the city’s low property tax and the 840 miles of streets that did not come with maintenance revenue, has caused the deferred maintenance problem. There is approximately $80 million in deferred street maintenance, according to the City of Bend.
“We’re trying to do a modern city here with small-town revenue sources,” Clinton said.
Councilor Sally Russell said each time the creation of finding a new funding solution is delayed, it causes the City of Bend to lose its investment.
“I think it’s very important for us to put together a working committee and look at various combinations of funding sources to address this problem,” she said.
Councilors also voted to create a temporary committee to evaluate and recommend street funding options. Knight, Roats and Chudowsky opposed the formation of the committee.
Councilor Doug Knight did not vote for the measure to be on the ballot because he said there is too much uncertainty and the working group needs to do its work first.
“The point of this working group is solve that uncertainty, to gather those stakeholders in the community and those that would ordinarily be in opposition, and potentially enable them to join ranks with those at the City that would think this is the best funding source,” Knight said. “We need to have a robust discussion within the community. We need to agree on a condition of (Pavement Condition Index).”
Roats echoed the point Chudowsky made during the special city council meeting on Monday in saying the fuel-tax is a failing revenue stream for the state of Oregon. During Wednesday’s meeting, both Roats and Chudowsky said they did not see the point in creating a committee if the intention is to put a measure on the ballot in the spring. They also both wanted the budget to be analyzed further.
“It’s important for a significant portion of the community that all options are considered fully, and not through a predetermined outcome,” Roats said.