Desperately Seeking City Funding

The city of Eugene’s Revenue Team is sifting through potential strategies to suggest revenue increases to the Budget Committee for the city’s General Fund, in light of the $3 million deficit the city faces for fiscal year (FY) 2015. Their goal is to recommend revenue strategies that will generate significant revenue, be acceptable to the community and can be implemented by FY16.

City Councilor and Revenue Team member Claire Syrett says the team aims for its recommendations to equally affect businesses, property owners and people using city services.

“Let’s say we put forward three or four specific tax proposals,” Syrett says. “I would say probably at least half of them would burden folks of lower income.”

Eight of the 15 strategies to be further examined during the Revenue Team’s meetings on March 13 and 20 have the potential to have more of an impact on low-income residents, according to the Finance Budget Analyst Team’s report. However, many of the taxes can be structured to be less regressive, such as the transient room tax, which could exclude unhoused people who are using vouchers.

“One of the things I like about it is it captures dollars from folks coming from outside the community,” Revenue Team member Laurie Trieger says.

A 1 percent increase on taxes of hotel rooms, motel rooms, RV parks and campgrounds would contribute approximately $105,000 yearly to the general fund, according to the Finance Budget Analyst Team.

“If we were to go to 12.5 percent instead of 10.5 percent,” Revenue Team member John Barofsky says, “you’re getting $200,000, which is a branch library.”

Closing down the Sheldon and Bethel branch libraries are cuts proposed to balance the city’s budget.

The Revenue Team is also considering an admissions tax for performances, red light cameras and a tax on electronic cigarettes.

“Supposedly, this is something that’s supposed to help folks get off cigarettes,” Trieger says of e-cigs. “It’s really as much a ploy to engage youth in nicotine addiction as it is to really help people quit cigarettes.”

State law prohibits cities from taxing tobacco and alcohol sales but does not yet restrict e-cigarette taxation. Budget Committee and Revenue Team member Marty Wilde says he would recommend implementing the tax based on nicotine content of the product.

“I certainly think it’s reasonable to impose what I would say is a reasonably equivalent tax to the cigarette tax that is imposed on the state level,” Wilde says.

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