Council met once last week on Wednesday and devoted the entire meeting to a discussion of the revised proposal to fund community safety.
The council has committed to identifying a sustainable revenue source to follow the $8.6 million in 18-month bridge funding to support an umbrella of community safety services. The bridge funding will expire in July 2020. The array of services includes support for increased officers and 911 staff, support for increases in the municipal court, continuing support for community court, services for homeless youth and day services for homeless adults. On Wednesday, council voted to hold a public hearing on a proposed payroll tax on workplaces in Eugene. Under the proposal, employees would pay .0040, or $10/month for a $15/hour wage earner; minimum wage employees would pay a lower rate of .0020, or $4/month. Employers would also pay .0020 which would come to $83/month for a business with a payroll of $500,000/year.
The proposed ordinance would require the revenue to be held in a separate fund; and a citizen advisory board would oversee an annual performance audit. After seven years, the fund and community safety outcomes would be reviewed for re-authorization.
From a police perspective, the Chief will measure outcomes based on the increase in number of police responses to calls, the shortening in time to response, and the capacity of the police force to work proactively and effectively to address crime.
From the broader perspective, the city’s aim is to increase services and remove bottlenecks -- to ensure that the criminal and community court systems service more people more effectively. Components of the community safety funding, such as a day center for homeless adults, complement and integrate with system improvements council will be considering as they implement the recommendations of the TAC report on homeless services and the feasibility of a public shelter. That discussion is coming to a joint meeting of city council and county commissioners tomorrow, May 13th.
The public hearing for the payroll tax is scheduled for May 28th. In addition to a decision about this payroll tax itself, council will also decide whether to enact the ordinance administratively or refer it for a public vote in November. We will be interested in hearing from the public both about your support or concerns about the tax, as well as whether you support the council acting administratively or think the community should have the opportunity to vote.
There are implications to that decision. A positive vote in support is a strong mandate, and that is always valuable. The downside is that a vote in November, even in support of the tax, will delay implementation of the new funding past the July 1, 2020 sunset of the bridge funding. This will leave the city with a funding gap that we would have to fill from other sources. If the vote fails in November, we will be back where we have been for the past years, with inadequate support for police, 911 and other community safety resources.