As Bend continues to grow, so does the wear and tear on the City’s transportation system. Until now, the City has relied on the State Gas Tax and local property taxes to underwrite road maintenance. However, new revenue modeling has shown that those sources are inadequate to maintain the City’s transportation system. Due in part to Oregon’s unique property tax system, as defined by Measures 5 and 50, Bend’s local property tax rates are frozen. While the City’s growth does increase the tax base, the rates are low when compared to other surrounding cities creating a chronic revenue shortfall.
In early 2023, City Councilors expressed a desire to adopt a new funding stream commonly used across Oregon. A transportation fee is a recurring fee on utility bills because everyone relies on the transportation system (mail delivery, garbage hauling services, food delivery, bus routes, etc.). A well-maintained transportation system allows people and goods and services to move safely and efficiently. This monthly fee on utility bills will both fill the gap in normal street operations and maintenance, as well as provide funding to grow the City’s multi-modal connections.
A City-led workgroup is currently meeting to discuss economic models, implementation strategies and rate structures for residential and commercial properties which will ultimately inform a recommendation to City Council in late 2023. The roundtables will help City staff and Council determine uses of revenue, ways to lessen the impact of this new fee on customers facing financial hardship, and how to balance the use of other funding tools for future transportation system needs. The first meeting took place on August 9, with future roundtables scheduled for September 13 and October 11. Meetings are open to the public for viewing and more information can be found here.