By LORE CHRISTOPHER

The City of Keizer has a long tradition of being an excellent business partner to all of our taxing district partners (Partners) while successfully maintaining a lean, balanced budget.  In addition, the city has used its one Urban Renewal District (District) to create over 1,300 jobs by bringing new businesses to Keizer in the past five years.

Think about that, 1,300 new jobs in this economy… that’s a lot of success!  These jobs are varied and include entry level retail to skilled trade and construction positions working at a time when many of us, our families and neighbors, remain unemployed.  We are very proud of Keizer’s contribution to the economy.

Keizer’s Urban Renewal District was used to pay for improvements in qualified areas to promote private business investment, create jobs, and increase the value of the property.  This provided jobs and stable revenue for Keizer and our Partners.  Keizer’s District has improved the community by removing above ground power lines on River Road, improving building facades and increasing sidewalk safety, all to encourage business expansion to bring new jobs.  It has worked well.  Our District was also used to construct a new police department with modern equipment to solve modern crimes and to build a community center that keeps local events local and steer additional business to Keizer and local businesses.

The actions taken by the Keizer City Council through this District have dramatically increased land values.  The Keizer Station area alone generates over $1,000,000 in increased property tax revenues.  In 2005, the Keizer City Council voluntarily reduced the District by one-third, thereby increasing annual revenues to our Partners by $940,000.

So, here’s the problem:  To make the Keizer Station a reality, the City of Keizer sold bonds and then required the Keizer Station property owners to repay Keizer, over time, for those bonds. Most property owners have kept their payments current; one has not, having missed payments totaling $800,000.  This leaves Keizer “on the hook” to make the missed payments.   The worst-case scenario could require Keizer to default on its bonds.

The Keizer City Council knows that it is imperative we take decisive action immediately to secure the city from its potential default.  The city council has asked all of our Partners to approve the extension of 31 percent of the District for four more years; 69 percent of the District would end.  This will return over $2,600,000 of the District’s income to our Partners beginning next year. When the remaining 31 percent of the District ends, our Partners will benefit with an annual addition of $1,200,000 in revenue.   This is an excellent plan, allowing the City to stay current on its bonds. This is not a bail-out of anyone. The city will foreclose on the defaulting property, sell it, and repay our Partners, making them “whole” for their agreement to the extension.

Our Urban Renewal District has been highly successful and will continue to be a great success for Keizer and its Partners without any adverse risk to our Partners. Keizer needs its Partners’ support and commitment to make that success happen.

Lore Christopher is the mayor of Keizer.