Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Bend Babble

On the home front… Bend’s run-away growth has far out-distanced the support systems of the city. More pavement equals more water run-off, but the storm drains are too small and too far between. More streets mean more maintenance and, in the winter, plowing. More traffic requires street widening. More population, more cops, fire-fighters, schools and school-teachers...

The city charges developers development fees, but the fees to not meet the added costs. The developers and their pals are the geese laying golden eggs for the city; the problem is, those golden eggs aren’t quite large enough...But, nobody wants to say, uhh, fellas, you’re costing us more than you’re paying us. If the city presses the developers, the business community flips out. Bend is in hock to the land-barons and builders.

Developers and sub-dividers have already spread out to other central Oregon towns: Prineville, Madras, La Pine, Redmond, even Sisters have subdivisions and expansion problems. Bend is going to be the Beverly Hills of central Oregon, and the other communities are going to house the workers.

In the meanwhile, Bend’s city government has shown itself more than capable in mastering the art of using weasel-words to muddy up the problems. All these fancy phrases do is distance city government from the citizens—at least from the citizens who pay any attention.

I think this phrase deserves some sort of award for bad writing:

"The city will maximize utilization of user charges in lieu of property taxes for services that can be individually identified and where the costs are directly related t the level of service."

They all speak this way: bureaucrats, social workers, graduate students, even elected officials.

Bend's 'stress points' will take $$$ to solve

Growth paying its own way has become a slogan in fast-growing Bend over the years, and with needs outstripping dollars, everyone will be asked to share in burden.
Updated: 11:57 AM, Jan. 15, 2007
By Barney Lerten,

To tackle what Bend officials call "financial stress points" and a long list of spendy transportation, sewer and water projects, residents of the still-fast growing community are likely to face new or higher utility and development fees - and also be asked for millions of road dollars at the polls in coming months and years.

City councilors this week will take up recommendations from staff on how to meet those needs, ranging from road maintenance and infrastructure to sewer and water system growth, a requirement to add storm water (runoff) facilities and the like.

A special finance committee will be the first, on Tuesday night, to review the city's five-year financial forecast and likely make recommendations to the full council.

The good news in the forecast: the city's "generally discretionary revenues are sufficient to afford increasing costs of police and fire, and likely, very real service level increases."

But the report goes on to say, "To assure this, the operational financial stress points" - transportation system maintenance, the storm water program and public transit operations - "need review for prioritization and level of funding."

City finance officials point to, among other things, the council's established policy: "The city will maximize utilization of user charges in lieu of property taxes for services that can be individually identified and where the costs are directly related t the level of service."

As Bend moves to a new two-year, biennial budget planning cycle this spring, the forecast says the city "is currently experiencing financial stability and health, but the levels of services desired by the growing citizenry of Bend, as recognized by the city council, will increase and broaden."

"Trends indicate that the current revenue structure will not cover the costs of desired service levels and special projects (e.g. Mirror Pond (dredging/silt removal), expanded accessibility, various city facilities) and maintain adequate reserves beyond several years," the report states.

For those "operational stress points," the staff is recommending formal creation of a storm water utility and that a fee be brought before councilors before June budget adoption, noting part of that program to better deal with runoff is state and federally mandated.

The staff also urges the city to "recommend a public transit district to Deschutes County for referral to the voters in November 2008, including a vote for a new permanent tax rate for funding transit operations."

City officials also recommend a study of a "transportation utility fee" to support street maintenance, "for potential implementation before the end of the 2007-09 biennium. (Local gas tax is also a funding option.)"

As for other, infrastructure-based "stress points," the staff proposes the city "refer a local option (tax) levy to voters for specific transportation improvement projects plus certain accessibility infrastructure corrections/expansions."

It's also proposed that sewer and water reclamation system development charges be "upgraded ... to reflect the appropriate impact fee from development." To cover sewer system improvements, the staff proposes issuing revenue bonds, "supported by increased rates."

And for another sticky issue - converting areas from septic system to city sewer - the staff proposes that the city "choose city-mandated local improvement districts, or enact as a matter of policy the city-wide support through increased rates (potentially financed by revenue bonds, although this option would have equability [sic] issues associated with it)."

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