Financing Our Future – Part 1

After several years of deliberation, voter actions in November 2012 (supporting Boones Ferry/Lake Grove redevelopment and not supporting the library bond measure), City Council decisions in October 2013 (moving forward potentially selling the West End Building) and direction to staff to develop means of financing the needed work for LOCOM/Police/911 and the Operations/Maintenance Center have cleared the way to focus on known core public facility requirements.

The City Council can potentially fund these two major projects within existing resources. The LOCOM/Police/911 center and the maintenance/operations center are part of the overall picture. The many projects are part of a coherent whole, with associated trade-offs and details of how to pay for the vision. There is nuance, but there is a way forward.

I West End Building – Selling the WEB means the city will fund slightly more than the $1 million difference between the sales price and remaining loan balance. The funding source is dollars received from selling the Furnace Street property. The Furnace Street property was purchased and sold to gain one of the remaining needed easements to complete a pathway along the Willamette. Selling the WEB eliminates annual debt service and operating expense of approximately $1.2 to $1.5 million.

II LOCOM/Police/911 – The existing facility is undersized and seismically unsafe. We can rebuild LOCOM/Police/911 using Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency (LORA) funds with no increase in taxes. The project is an approved project for which LORA funds can be used. The LORA plan lists emergency dispatch capabilities, police and court functions as approved fundable projects. The precedent for utilizing LORA dollars for improving and constructing public facilities was established when Lake Oswego rebuilt the downtown fire station utilizing LORA funds.

Spending LORA dollars for LOCOM/Police/911 brings the city closer to the day of meeting an original East End district promise of 1987/1988……closing the East End district and returning incremental property tax dollars to the general fund. By utilizing East End LORA district dollars for LOCOM/Police/911, citizens are able to share in financial benefits of the East End urban renewal district sooner. After 27 years and wonderful work within the East End district, it is time to develop the path for closing the district down.

III Operations/Maintenance Facility – The facility is held together by duct tape and chewing gum. Not really, but not far off. How can the project be funded? It involves PERS and reserves. The city has budgeted as if 2013 state legislative PERS actions will not survive judicial appeals. This is prudent, though legal analysis provided to the legislature supports PERS legislative actions passing judicial muster. By reserving/budgeting for a higher amount and paying a smaller amount, the city will build/reserve dollars potentially approaching $3 million in the next three years. Combined with existing resources in utility funds (wastewater, water, street and surface water), phasing of construction work provides a path forward for this needed, core earthquake resistant city service.

Completing two major capital/infrastructure projects without requesting a tax increase is a powerful message to our citizens — we are good stewards of our limited dollars. There is nuance, detail and trade-offs in these choices. Projects can be done logically and cost effectively. The city’s aim is to provide core infrastructure for our citizens, laying the foundation for a vibrant, healthy and great community. It just requires the will.

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