October 21, 2011
It has always been humbling to experience the generosity, folksy friendliness, and plain old hard work that resides at the core of rural Oregon, but I’m a little disturbed by the people living in the cities who are taking advantage of their country neighbor’s hospitality.
There are 78 taxing districts in Coos County with 7 of those districts being Urban Renewal Districts. In the FYE 2010-2011 those 7 Urban Renewal Districts drained over 3 million dollars from the property taxes collected by the county to fund all the other taxing districts. That amounts to 5% of all the property taxes collected. That money was intended for the nuts and bolts of basic county services, but instead it will be used for “designer” projects
The Urban Renewal districts are located in the cities and cover redevelopment and beautification projects in the most densely populated areas. The money that is skimmed by Urban Renewal from the other taxing districts should not be pilfered, but instead, should stay in those districts to continue to provide for the most basic countywide services. Any incursion into our property tax money, in this day and age of insolvency and bankruptcy, is now harmful.
There are several countywide taxing districts that suffer more than the other taxing districts through the loss of funding to Urban Renewal. Everyone in Coos County, who pays property taxes, is paying for the 7 Urban Renewal taxing districts. Those local bureaucracies do absolutely nothing to benefit the people or businesses existing outside the Urban Renewal taxing area. In fact, there are many unintended consequences caused by the redevelopment projects undertaken by these agencies that do additional economic harm to businesses and people in the outlying areas of the county.
The taxing districts that suffer the most are: The County; 4H/Extension Services; Coos County-Library Services; Coos County Airport; Southwestern College; and South Coast Educational Service District. Every citizen in the county uses one of the basic services provided by these taxing districts and every year those districts lose another 5.6% to Urban Renewal, and that percentage is increasing. To make up for this loss the county will eventually have to raise taxes or cut basic services.
The county is its own taxing district. That district provides for emergency management, the sheriff’s office, the county courthouse, the jail, juvenile detention, the District Attorney, animal control and elections, just to name a few. The next time you or your child have an emergency, I guess you can call the Bandon Urban Renewal Board and see if they can come and help. They should, since the City of Bandon took $45,196 from those basic services last year alone. The 7 Urban Renewal areas combined took a total of $206,419 away from the County Taxing District FYE 2010-2011.
The 4H Extension Services is another countywide taxing district. The city folks are taking away money from kids with bunnies, so they can build bike paths, boardwalks, pedestrian walkways, museums, theaters, skateboard parks, swimming pools, and eco-tourism centers. The cities are under the delusion that this will somehow broaden their tax base. Supposedly, this will benefit everyone in the county. Well, when we are out of farmers and ranchers, maybe Bandon will build a barn. Last year, the Bandon Urban Renewal agency siphoned away $3,679 from the 4H District. In total, 4H lost a whopping $16,587 to the Urban Renewal districts---all for the pleasure of the cities.
If you like to read and cannot find a specific book at your local library, then call the City of Bandon and ask them to borrow their copy. They should have a couple since the city took over $30,000 from the county library system last year. The Library Taxing District lost a total of $138,827 to all the Urban Renewal districts combined with little to nothing to show for our expense. Imagine the educational projects the libraries could have done if the funding had been there.
Bandon is no better or worse than any other city with an Urban Renewal Agency. The City of Bandon was just lucky enough to get in on this Pyramid Scheme at the very top level and now the city reaps the “rewards,” which makes it the perfect example to demonstrate the flaws of Urban Renewal and the greedy process of Tax Increment Financing.
The Bandon Urban Renewal Agency siphoned 385,532 from 10 other overlapping taxing districts and that includes the six most utilized taxing districts. Bandon has a population of 3,300 people, which would work out to about $117 per person. In contrast, Coos Bay’s Urban Renewal Agency siphoned $1,478,032 from other districts, which works out to about $96 per their 15,374 residents. Those are the highest yielding agencies, and as anyone can see, the citizens of Bandon are making bank, while the other taxing districts pay the price.
These taxing agencies have been around in Coos County since early 1990. In the last two decades they have stolen millions of tax dollars intended for necessary amenities and districts have to replace that money with tax hikes. Plus, maintaining redevelopment projects has to come from other sources besides Urban Renewal. These new facilities and redevelopment projects put an extra strain on the county’s financial system.
The Bandon Urban Renewal Area #1 is about to double its “maximum indebtedness” up to 12 million dollars and extend the debt all the way out to 2033, but there is still time to stop this process. There is a new website dedicated to ending or restricting the use of Urban Renewal in Coos County and anyone can sign up for their newsletter. Go to www.cooscountywatchdog.com to find out about scheduled events or to get more information.
And, if you want to tell the Bandon City Council what you think of their plans for the Urban Renewal Agency, then attend the Bandon City Council meeting in City Hall at 7:00 pm, Monday, on November 7th. Several of us concerned citizens are planning on attending this public meeting for the purpose of airing our grievances during the public comment section and it would be nice to have a supportive flotilla of even more concerned citizens from all over Coos County.
“Rob Taylor was the original organizer of the TEA Parties in Coos County and is currently an independent activist working to promote the rights of the individual.”