City Council Work Session - Minutes

Mon., Jun. 27, 2016

Mayor Drotzmann called the work session meeting to order at 6:00 pm. Present were Councilors Myers, Primmer, Hardin, Beas-Fitzgerald and Gutierrez. Staff members in attendance were City Manager Byron Smith, City Attorney Gary Luisi, Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan, Chief Edmiston, Amy Palmer, Bill Schmittle, Ron Sivey, and Heather LaBeau. News media present were Michael Kane from NE Oregon Now and Jade McDowell of the East Oregonian.

League of Oregon Cities (LOC) Legislative Priorities discussion

City Manager Smith briefly went through each issue that was brought to the league through various committees.  While all the issues are important, Mr. Smith recommended ten priorities for Hermiston to be (A) Needed Housing Assistance Program, (H) Property Tax Reform-Market Value/Local Control, (I) Property Tax Reform-Fairness and Equity,  (M) Restore Recreational Immunity, (P) Protect Mental Health Investments Made in 2015, (R) Repeal Requirement to Subsidize Retiree Health Insurance, (S) PERS Reform, (Z) Comprehensive, Multi-modal Transportation Funding and Policy Package and (AA) Funding for Water System Resilience.

The Needed Housing Assistance Program is an issue that would assist cities to develop new and innovative housing solutions for low-income or senior populations.  

Mr. Smith stated that Measure 5 and 50 really limit what can be done with property taxes.  The Property Tax Reform-Market Value/Local Control proposals highlight two things that can be done without an initiative going to ballot.  The first piece of the proposal is to transition to a market based valuation system. Tax values have grown based on formulas not on market value.   Property tax bills can vary drastically in the same location depending on when the houses were built and sold.  The other piece to this is allowing voters to adopt tax levies and establish tax rates outside of current constitutional limits in their taxing jurisdictions.

The Property Tax Reform-Fairness and Equity bill pursues statutory modifications to the existing property tax system that enhances the fairness and adequacy of the current system. 

A high priority is to Restore Recreational Immunity.  Case law has found city employees liable for injuries sustained while in a city park.  This hinders the City’s ability to provide some services the citizens are interested in.   While the city could not be sued, the city employees could be and the city would then have to defend the employee. 

There were changes made in 2015 to help the mentally ill.  Protecting Mental Health Investments Made in 2015 is a priority for Hermiston.

Insurance is one of the City’s biggest costs.  Repeal Requirement to Subsidize Retiree Health Insurance is a priority and could have a significant impact on the budget.

PERS Reform involves adjusting benefits where legally allowable and investments should be maximized to ensure a sustainable and adequate pension system.   Finding the balance between treating employees well and managing the budget is a challenge.

Comprehensive, Multi-modal Transportation Funding and Policy Package has been a focus of the League for a few years.  The legislative committee making a recommendation on this package will be in Hermiston on Thursday.  The City appreciates the money the state has spent in Hermiston and would like help with other projects. 

Funding for Water System Resilience is a priority that would work to secure dedicated funding for water and wastewater system resilience and emergency preparation. 

There was discussion on all the issues and priorities presented.  Councilors feel Increased Funding for Water Supply Development is an important priority for Hermiston.  It supports additional water supply funding through the state’s Water Supply Development Account. 

The LOC requests the City determine the top four priorities.   The Councilors decided on the following four recommendations:

(H) Property Tax Reform-Market Value/Local Control

(M) Restore Recreational Immunity

(Z) Comprehensive, Multi-modal Transportation Funding and Policy Package

(CC) Increased Funding for Water Supply Development

The LOC needs volunteers to serve on the various committees.  Applications will be available later this year.

Mayor Drotzmann ended the work session at 6:35 pm. The Councilors took a short break before the regular City Council meeting convened at 7:00 pm.