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Don’t fall for tax increase excuses by Salem

Written by Kevin Mannix on May. 20th, 2024

The City of Salem has canceled several beloved summer events – including Movies at the Park, First Friday concerts, and the Kids Relays – all due to a projected budget deficit. 

Instead of cutting wasteful or rarely used programs, the City of Salem apparently wants residents to “feel the pain” of the City Council’s fiscal mismanagement. 

The City is willing to sacrifice these beloved traditions to save $94,400 – but this is a drop in the bucket compared to the city’s overall budget. It appears to hold the community hostage and manipulate residents to accept the City Council’s tax increase ideas. “If you only pass our tax, then you could have summer events, or keep the library open, or have a fully staffed police force.”

Make no mistake, the City of Salem has record revenue. The city is guaranteed a 3% yearly increase in its budget under Oregon’s property tax laws. The issue isn’t that the City of Salem doesn’t have enough revenue for the services and events that Salem residents enjoy, it’s that the city has its priorities backwards. 

For example, the City Council recently voted to cut five police positions and instead fund a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) office. 

There are 40,000 more people–many of them new taxpayers–living in Salem in 2024 than there were in 2000, yet our police department has the same number of police. To me, that is unacceptable. 

I think it is unacceptable to voters as well. There is a reason 82% of voters rejected city of Salem the payroll tax last year. For voters to approve a new tax, they need to be confident that it will be spent wisely. I think the margin of defeat for the tax on worker pay reveals much about voters’ trust in the Salem city government. 

Unfortunately, some of those who would have preferred a tax on Salem workers want even more control over the levers of government. Councilor Virginia Stapleton now wants to be State Representative (full disclosure, she’s running against me) on a platform to “reform Oregon’s property tax system” (Read: increase your property taxes). 

I’ve been working with state leaders to help Salem with their budget issues without punitive new taxes.

Did you know that every state-owned building in Salem doesn’t pay property tax to the city or county? That’s millions in revenue every year because Salem, as the state capital, has a higher proportion of state-owned land than other cities.

The solution, which many other states have adopted, is a direct payment from state government to local governments to make up for forgone property tax revenue.

I choose to support well-rounded, common sense, solutions such as presented in the above discussion. Unnecessary harsh cutbacks in popular projects (with limited financial impact) is not a solution designed to gather community support.

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