By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Whatchamacolumn: Time to advise city on taxes, services

August is history; school has started; Labor Day weekend will soon be gone. There is, however, one great season-ending activity available — the ninth annual Walnut City Music Festival, live this Saturday and Sunday at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum campus.

Then, with summer wound down, citizens can focus on more mundane (but important) issues of advising the city of McMinnville how much to tax us.

Area voters this year approved formation of McMinnville Fire District with a new property tax levy of $2 per $1,000 assessed value. The election guarantees tax increases for McMinnville property owners who have been paying $1.50 per $1,000 to the city budget for fire services, and surrounding rural district owners who have been paying about $1 per $1,000.

The city, however, can retain that $1.50 per $1,000 tax authorization and distribute the estimated $4.8 million levy – growing annually – to other departments. City leaders chose not to levy the $1.50 for 2023-24, instead launching a citizen input project dubbed, “Dollars and Sense – Prioritizing with you. Investing in our community.”

The city says it needs more money to maintain services “at the level and quality our residents desire and deserve.” Listed among most pressing needs: outdated parks and library; under-staffing of police, planning and public works departments; and a long-term vision to meet housing needs and improve streets and sidewalks.

In Phase I of an online survey, citizens can select five of nine major areas of city services, then place them in 1-to-5 priority order. Participants should look for “more information” links to see more details about how funds would be used in each service area.

Phase II of the survey is more complex if participants choose one of three alternatives: Tax us an extra 50 cents per $1,000 ($1.6 million) … an extra $1 per $1,000 ($3.2 million) … or an extra $1.50 per $1,000 ($4.8 million). After choosing one, participants can distribute resulting tax dollars among the nine major service areas.

There is, however, an Option 4 in Phase II: Eliminate the $1.50 per $1,000 levy altogether. In so-choosing, citizens are told it will “reduce services to city residents.”

It’s no surprise to see sparse early returns to a summertime online survey. It’s also no surprise to see citizen pushback on extra taxation after years of major increases in city fees and utility surcharges going into a budget that seems too unwieldy for easy analysis.

All reference to Walnut City Music Festival aside, it is time for McMinnville leaders and citizens to face the music when it comes to city service levels.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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