Taxing senior centers unfair public policy


My name is Fee Stubblefield, and I operate retirement communities in both Oregon and Montana. Though none of my facilities are local, I employ 50 people in offices in downtown McMinnville.

Guest Writer

Fee Stubblefield a native Oregonian, is the CEO and Founder of The Springs Living, headquartered in McMinnville. He started the company in 1996, with an idea to build a retirement community acceptable to his grandmother who was facing challenges of aging. Fee attended Clemson University; is married and has three adult children. He is the Chair of the Oregon Health Care Association and on the Operator Advisory Board of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.

I’m writing in response to the recent editorial on our efforts to overturn the city’s Ordinance 5059. My grandmother taught me there are usually two sides to a story, and this is one of those cases.

It’s important that members of the community have the chance to address the major issues we have with this ordinance. The campaign mentioned in the editorial is meant to raise awareness of the deep structural flaws in this ordinance.

The ordinance represents bad public policy. It will not only hurt McMinnville seniors, but also our community as a whole.

Many of us in the community have tried to address these flaws in other ways since passage of the ordinance last fall, but we’ve been ineffective in communicating our concerns with the city.

City officials haven’t been willing to sit down with us in a cooperative manner. They haven’t been willing to listen.

A petition drive to force a voter referendum is the result. It is the final option we have left to address this bad governmental policy.

The real issue here is the city budget. McMinnville residents deserve to have a say in how we face our city budget problems, and singling out specific organizations for special taxes isn’t the way to do this.

Ordinance 5059 has two major requirements.

First, McMinnville senior care facilities must obtain a new specialty license at an annual cost of $200 per bed and pay an additional yearly fee of $500 per building. Together, that may run as high as $20,000 for some facilities. 

As with any fixed operating cost, this cost will have to be passed on. That seems so obvious it should have been clear to the city when it created this new tax.

No other city in Oregon — possibly even in the nation — enacts a tax specifically targeting senior care facilities. It just isn’t good policy. It just doesn’t make good sense.

Money feeding into the city’s unrestricted general fund is gathered in various ways — through property taxes, bond issues, sin taxes and the like. And let’s be clear about one thing: That’s where this new revenue stream will go. It will not be dedicated to supporting our fire department or enhancing care in McMinnville senior facilities.

Second, the ordinance authorizes the city to impose fines of $1,500 per incident on care facilities using McMinnville’s emergency medical services system for calls considered non-emergency in nature.

This EMS fine is fair in theory. A few other Oregon cities, including Portland, assess fines on senior care facilities in cases of EMS misuse.

However, in other cities, the fines start at $250, one-sixth the figure established in McMinnville. And in other cities, they are used as a tool to drive behavior, not bring in revenue. The McMinnville fines are excessive, poorly designed and clearly of revenue-generating rather than care-enhancing intent. 

I’m only grazing the surface of this complex issue. Ultimately, that’s why I am supporting the petition to place this issue on our ballot in November.

Once we get it on the ballot, there’ll be more time for all the facts and complexities to come to light, reflecting the views of all parties involved.



Now you know how the residents of McMinnville feel--operating as the local bureaucracy's blank checks.

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