By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
On the national picture, the big election takes place a year from Tuesday.
But locally, two big issues will be decided this coming Tuesday.
The one that’s been most talked about is Ballot Measure 24-388, the proposed 0.21 percent business payroll tax to pay for increased local transit service. Officials with the Salem-Keizer Transit District have estimated the new tax, which will be collected starting in 2017, will bring in about $5 million in new revenue a year.
Anyone reading the Keizertimes lately – or driving by busy intersections on certain days – knows opposition has been strong. Both the Keizer and Salem Area Chambers of Commerce have led organized efforts to protest the payroll tax as being unfair.
In addition to the sign waving, the chambers have also produced ads against the payroll tax and spoken out in other forums such as luncheons.
While the opposition has been vocal, proponents of the tax have been far quieter. Transit board members have spoken at several Keizer meetings this month, but the small crowds at each means a total of about 25 people heard the message. Discussion of the funding during the Oct. 12 Keizer City Council work session drew a strong rebuke from councilor Amy Ryan, who asserted it wasn’t fair for transit officials to campaign for the tax since opponents hadn’t been invited to speak.
Few, not even the opponents, have been arguing against the need for more revenue since transit officials will be using the money to fund the restoration of weekend service, extended weeknight service and bus passes for middle school and high school students.
Those services were cut in 2009 after previous ballot measures to bring in more funding were denied by voters.
If the ballot measure passes, reserves would be used to get Saturday service started next summer, with extended weeknight and Sunday service starting in the summer of 2017. Student bus passes would start next fall with the start of the new school year.
Proponents have set up a website at www.yesforcherriots.com, while opponents have established the www.stopemployertax.com website.
In contrast to the hotly debated payroll tax, the equipment bond levy for the Keizer Fire District has been flying quietly under the radar. Ballot Measure 24-389 would collect $6.2 million over a 20-year period, at a rate of about 14 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. That means a $28 annual tab for a $200,000 home.
The equipment bond would take the place of a measure being paid off in February to pay for the Keizer Fire Station on Chemawa Road. The bond would focus on buying new equipment. Most urgently, that would include new ambulances, including one purchased in 2008 that fire chief Jeff Cowan has acknowledged as being a lemon.
Ballots have to be submitted by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.
In Keizer, drop off locations are the box in the parking lot at Keizer Civic Center (930 Chemawa Road NE) and U.S. Bank, located at 5110 River Road N.