What are the benefits that I get from being civically engaged and informed?

While the effort required to be informed about what goes on in your community can be strenuous, especially after a long day at work, the importance of remaining informed cannot be understated. 

One of the most obvious boons to civic engagement and remaining up-to-date on what’s happening is the awareness one inculcates about not only their city and its issues, but how those issues could be solved. 

According to the National Civic League, a nonprofit that focuses on increasing civic engagement, communities with inclusive civic engagement often experience greater equity, display greater civic pride and exhibit stronger civic responsibility.

An apt analogy revolves around Plato’s allegory about “The Cave” in that, once you see more than the back-lit shadows on the wall, your reality is often changed without the ability to go back. 

Civic engagement largely reflects this same situation as when learning more about the issues a city has, it is difficult to return to a previous state of mind and not think about how those issues are constantly affecting you each and everyday. 

The benefits one gets from civic engagement reach many different areas though the most prevalent boons revolve around an increased desire to act in the community as well as a sense of pride and pleasure when thinking about and describing the community. Civic awareness and participation is one of the linchpins to a healthy society and, according to a report from the Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, the possibility of the country’s future ending up in the hands of citizens’ with a lack of civic knowledge poses one of the most serious modern threats to America. 

Here in Keizer, much like other cities, issues are prevalent, though for many, they have little idea about what is happening as well as how they are affected. 

Property Taxes

Perhaps one of the most pressing issues for the city itself has to do with revenue as well as maintaining a healthy budget that can balance the amount of revenue the city has incoming compared to the expenditures it accrues. 

Overall, the city’s general fund is what is primarily used as it covers all revenues and expenditures and covers things such as the police (66%), general government (19%), parks (9%), planning (4%) and municipal court (2%).

Noted by Assistant City Manager Tim Wood as the most constrained fund, the city’s current expenditures are anticipated to be more than future revenues can produce, requiring contingency funds to be used from other money pools.

The primary revenue sources for the city are from taxes and assessments, utility licenses and fees, intergovernmental sources and police and parks fees. 

At the moment, the city is trying to diversify how it makes money. 

A main through line for the city’s financial woes comes from how property taxes are collected as well as how much. 

Property taxes go towards paying for a number of services in Keizer 

Property rates in Keizer are accessed using a levy rate which takes a percentage of each $1,000 of assessed property value. 

The city’s levy rate is a function of the permanent tax rate and here in Keizer is $2.08 of every $1,000, which is half the state tax average and in the bottom five lowest property tax rates statewide.

This lowered amount, which was cemented by Measure 50 in 1998, allows lowered rates for homeowners but negatively affects how the city can afford and manage its budget as well as provide needed services to citizens. 

A city often has different types of taxpayers such as residential, commercial and industrial, though Keizer has no industrial tax income which does affect the other groups, according to Wood. 

Combined with the projected growth for the city in terms of population, this creates a scenario where there are a greater number of people coming to Keizer that all require more services that the city will struggle to provide based on what taxes are collected, unless something can be done at the state level to adjust Measure 50.


Another monetary issue the city is dealing with currently is in regards to its PERS obligation. 

At the second long range reported on by the Keizertimes, City Manager Adam Brown presented several revenue solutions to paying down the city’s Public Employers Retirement System (PERS) Underfunded Accrued Liability (UAL) obligation which sits at around $1.4 million.

The current plan to pay down the UAL revolves around leasing property for development in Keizer Station to increase as well as diversify revenue sources. 

A review presented by the long range task force, however, determined that the city is not a good property owner or manager, according to reports conducted by city staff. 

In order to alleviate issues stemming from this, an alternative strategy is to put the Keizer Station city-owned properties in the hands of developers and use the proceeds to pay down the UAL, according to Brown and task force documentation.

This issue leads into the last revenue issue the city deals with which is its issue with collecting fees from the businesses in Keizer. 

One example, talked about in the Feb. 12 long range budget meeting, revolves around the business-type revenue sources Keizer has, or rather its lack of revenue from those sources. 

For 2023, a total of $617,770 was collected in business-type revenue. The sections represented for where Keizer collects business revenues comes from Taxes and assessments, Franchise taxes, intergovernmental revenue, capital asset sales and miscellaneous. 

For 2023, revenue was collected from capital asset sales ($74,370) as well as miscellaneous ($541,400) meaning that the remaining $2,000 was all that was collected from business taxes, franchise fees as well as intergovernmental revenue. 

Voting for new fees for service

Another interesting thing being debated and scheduled for a work session sometime this year, is the discussion over how new fees for services will be imposed on citizens. 

Councilor Dan Kohler brought up the notion of putting any new service fees the city might require to the ballot, letting citizens vote on whether or not to accept them. 

Multiple citizens have written in sharing their opinion about the idea, whether good or bad. 

Regardless of whether support or denigration is your opinion it is important that ideas like these are being discussed. 

Allowing service fees has both good and bad components, depending on how levy voting is conducted. 

Positive parts of this involve having a wider array of citizens voting on whether or not they want a new fee and allowing the most amount of people to democratically weigh-in on what they want to pay. 

Negative portions of this idea revolve around the cost incurred for putting a fee to ballot as well as the results of what local voting in Keizer delivers. 

An example of this can be found in the fire levy for the Keizer Fire District which passed in 2023. 

In Keizer, the measure passed with 59% in favor of the increase, however, polling results show that less than 6,000 Keizerites actually voted for the levy. 

In a city of nearly 40,000, 6,000 votes accounts for only 15% of the population. 

By putting a new fee service to a citizen ballot, you chance not only a lower voter turnout as compared to the seven votes which make 100% of the council, but it also puts the vote into the hands of people who are not as informed about what they are voting for, unlike the city council.

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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