From economic development and public safety opportunities, to infrastructure and environment challenges, the audience at the Bend Chamber What’s Brewing: City & County Address had a multitude of takeaways on June 7.
“The Bend Chamber believes it’s our civic responsibility to provide an educational update on the state of our city and county,” said Bend Chamber Senior Vice President of Programs and Events Robin Rogers about the special event sponsored by Mid Oregon Credit Union. “Both municipalities have a large impact on our quality of life, so it’s important for the community as a whole, to have access to these leaders.”
The panel consisted of Bend City Councilor Sally Russell, Bend City Manager Eric King and Deschutes County Commissioners Tammy Baney, Alan Unger and Tony DeBone.
Russell kicked off the conversation in the Deschutes Brewery Mountain Room, asking questions to the audience about what issues about the City were on their minds, and, how much did they think a city councilor earned each month.
“We all live within the world of constraints: state rules, politics, dollars and often the world we live in really requires compromise,” Russell said. “So sometimes that has to do with the funds that are available to us and there are lots of hard choices that we have to make.”
She discussed the success of the new industry clusters, the strides made from council on the issue of affordable housing, as well as the South East Interceptor.
“There’s a lot of infrastructure work going on in this town right now and we’re really taking ourselves into the future,” she said.
King gave a clear break down on where property taxes go. He said about 20 percent of those taxes go towards the City of Bend.
“The City receives about $140 million in revenue per year,” King said. “Two thirds of that revenue is restricted, meaning it’s a fee for service… Where council has the most discretion, where we spend most of our time with our resources, is the general fund, and that’s about a third, (or) $40 million,” he said.
King said if the City of Bend had the same tax rate as Redmond, it would have an additional $13 million a year.
King also addressed the street funding debacle. He painted the picture of the story of how Bend has evolved over the past 15 years with streets and other general fund expenses and the choices that were made.
Before passing off to the panelists from Deschutes County, Russell spoke about growth in Bend, which she said is approximately 6.4 people each day.
“It’s time to really plan for our future and the City is really now in a position to do that,” Russell said.
Deschutes County Administrator Tom Anderson spoke about the major issues facing the community and the County’s plan to deliver solutions.
Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney spoke about the success of stable funding for 911 and the opportunity for increased public health, while Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone discussed partnerships throughout the region that will spur both economic and infrastructure growth. Deschutes County Commissioner Alan Unger touched on opportunities and challenges associated with fire protection as well as the spotted frog.
To conclude the evening, Baney reminded delegates and the audience about the importance of being able to laugh and themselves with her famous Top Ten presentation.