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Voters to decide on more Milwaukie light-rail cuts

City councilors unanimously decided last week to ask voters to accept an extra $36 tax on the average property to pay off TriMet for Milwaukie’s light-rail debt.

If voters don’t pass the $4 million bond measure, Milwaukie would have to cut two or three staff members next year, estimated Finance Director Casey Camors at the Feb. 18 meeting. But passage of the bond wouldn’t guarantee no cuts; it would only reduce the amount of cuts needed, Camors noted.

“It’s important that our citizens be given a choice as to how services are provided within the community,” said Mayor Jeremy Ferguson.

Councilor Mark Gamba pointed out that Milwaukie’s 138 budgeted employees this year almost puts it below West Linn’s employee number. West Linn has fewer full time-equivalent employees per capita, but Milwaukie has a half dozen or so staff positions currently empty. In the past three years, 44 employees have left or were fired from Milwaukie, and the city has decided not to refill many of these positions.

“We’re already nearly the lowest in reality, and having to lose more staff would put us down there,” Gamba said.

Ledding Library gets about $1 million annually from the general fund, or about a third of its revenue, so there’s potential that its hours or employees would be affected. But city officials say they haven’t determined which employees would be cut if the measure failed, and City Councilor Scott Churchill was among the elected officials who asked the city to determine before May what cuts would be made.

“It is important that people have an understanding of what the cuts are going to be,” said Councilor Dave Hedges. “If we’re only going to sweep the roads 50 percent of the time we do now, I might be prepared to put up with that. There are other cuts I think could be made.”

Churchill is hoping that library services wouldn’t be affected, but Hedges and a couple of other citizens argued at the meeting that maintaining police service would be worth paying the extra property taxes.

Currently the city pays a 5 percent interest rate to TriMet, but the rates have been hovering above 4 percent based on the city’s credit rate. Camors warned City Council that the rates could go up when and if the city issues bonds in a few months.

Councilors last week also referred a measure to voters to change the city charter for the city manager’s residency requirement. Managers haven’t lived in the city for decades, and Milwaukie elected officials have used their power designated by the charter to excuse City Manger Bill Monahan from moving within six months of his hire. The measure would make clear that Milwaukie’s top administrator would never be required to live within city limits.



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