By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
A proposed public safety ballot measure was crushed at the ballot box, as opponents enjoyed more than a two-to-one fundraising advantage over supporters.
But election results were even more lopsided, as 80 percent of the vote went against the ballot measure. It would have added a $4.86 assessment to monthly utility bills. Preliminary results show 5,898 voted against the measure, with just 1,471 signaling their support.
Now there’s the question of what happens next to the two agencies who sought to benefit most from the measure.
Cuts could be looming next year at Keizer Police, said Chief Marc Adams.
“My best hope is that we’ll have a status quo but I don’t foresee that happening,” Adams said. “I think there will be some kind of cuts, I just don’t know how bad.”
Keizer Fire Chief Jeff Cowan believes he can get through 2012-13 without staff cuts.
“After that it gets dicey,” Cowan said.
He said voters will ultimately have three opportunities in the next four years to weigh in on the district’s funding situation: A March 2012 referendum on the Clear Lake annexation, a November 2014 renewal of the district’s operating levy, and signing on for equipment bonds once the fire hall bonds expire in 2015. Cowan is touting it as the “cost-neutral” plan, saying it would be a continuation of taxes ratepayers are already providing.
“We’ll be working hard to tighten our belt,” Cowan said. “Getting approval from the voters is the only method we have available to us when it comes to public funding.”
Funds would have gone primarily to the Keizer Police Department and Keizer Fire District, with a small slice going to Marion County Fire District No. 1.
Opposition group No More Unfair Taxes got a late start, but in the last few weeks raised about $26,185 to fight the measure. Major contributors included Shelter Management Inc. ($4,000), Emerald Pointe LLC $4,300), Hawk’s Point Apartments ($3,420) and Hawk’s Point Phase Two LLC ($2,560), Mountain West Investment Corp. ($2,000), Windsor Court Apartments, Inc. ($1,920), Trail Development LLC ($2,550), and Lakeshore Apartments LLC ($2,400).
Major financial supporters of the measure included the Keizer Professional Firefighters union, which put in $5,000, the Keizer Police Association with $1,000 and Avamere Living, which contributed $2,500.
Tim Smith and Lee Sjothun led the No More Unfair Taxes committee, while Keizer City Councilor Mark Caillier oversaw Keizer Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods, which supported the measure.
“I think the overall message was how much the citizens of Keizer are hurting financially,” Smith said. “They just don’t have any more to give.”
Smith said multi-unit residential complexes like apartments and some senior housing facilities would have borne the brunt of the fee, which was to be assessed on City of Keizer utility bills.
“It had an impact on a per-unit basis, one none of the senior citizens at my apartments nor at senior housing could afford,” Smith said.
While past election results reveal a largely conservative electorate, Keizer voters have supported public safety with their pocketbooks in the past. A 35-cent operating levy for Keizer Fire District remains in effect, and a 15-cent per $1,000 bond for KFD’s fire hall is a few years from expiring. Keizerites turned down a one-year, $1.61 city operating levy in 1996, but approved a $1.55 levy just two months later.
“With all the things going on in Keizer right now, I think people are telling us we need to be very fiscally conservative and work our way out of any issues with the resources we’re provided,” Caillier said.
About 42 percent of voters submitted a ballot.