Jeff Cowan

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

If the City of Keizer manages to extend its Urban Renewal District, it will do it without the support of the Keizer Fire District.

Citing concerns about appearances to taxpayers and the crater left in budget forecasts if the urban renewal district continues, the Keizer Fire Board unanimously rejected the city’s plea to support the extension of the special taxing district.

“For years, we’ve told people how [the urban renewal district] harmed the fire district. I can’t, with a straight face, ask those same people to renew our bond levies if we give up this money,” said Director Mike Kurtz prior to the vote.

Director Greg Ego said it would be unfair to place the city’s predicament on the backs of taxpayers contributing to the Keizer Fire District.

The Fire District recently completed a five-year budget forecast that projected revenues and shortfalls with the end of the district and with it continuing at a decreased rates. The projections showed a $289,000 deficit in five years with the district ending and a $952,000 deficit with it continuing at a decreased rate.

“$289,000 is a ditch I can avoid. Nearly $1 million is a trainwreck we’re not prepared for,” said Fire Chief Jeff Cowan after the meeting. Cowan said the district will be able to absorb the smaller shortfall through staff attrition and less overtime among other tactics.

To assure they’ll be able to make payments on bonded debt issued to develop street, sewer and other infrastructure in Keizer Station, City officials are proposing an extension of the urban renewal district that would shrink revenues to about 35 percent of what the district is allowed to collect. The remaining 65 percent would go back to taxing entities like Marion County, Salem-Keizer Transit, Keizer Fire, Marion County Fire District No. 1 and others.

Original Keizer Station developer Chuck Sides owes about $8.5 million for tracts of property he still owns in the Keizer Station area and has fallen behind on payments. The city has until December to extend the district so that Sides’ local improvement district debt won’t massively impact basic city services. Much of Keizer Station is now owned by other parties that are continuing to make debt service payments.

While the Keizer Fire Board withheld its support for the extension of the urban renewal district, the city could still succeed in its bid to lengthen the district’s life. If the city can garner approvals from taxing districts representing 75 percent of the total money collected within the urban renewal districts, its life could be extended.