Registered voters around the state have begun receiving their mail-in ballots for this month’s election. In Bend, the city council is asking residents to approve a $30 million transportation bond.
The money would be used for high priority road projects around the city, including a number of new roundabouts.
Nearly two-thirds of the money would be spent rebuilding a two-mile stretch of road that cuts across town.
The bonds would be paid for through an increase in property taxes.
Neil Bryant is an attorney, a former State Senator and the co-chair of Better Roads for Bend. That’s the political action committee formed to support the measure.
He says a resident with a home assessed at $200,000 would be on the hook for about $54 a year. But he says because of the pending expiration of an Urban Renewal Bond homeowners wouldn’t actually pay any more than they do currently.
Neil Bryant: “It has about the same tax effect. It’s 27 cents per thousand of assessed valuation. This bond will begin at 27 cents per thousand, so it will be tax neutral even though it is a new tax. And then over the life of the bond, it actually goes down to about 22 cents per thousand”.
The Bend city council unanimously voted to put the measure on the ballot. Bryant says the projects funded by the bonds represent just a small fraction of the city’s to-do list.
But like many municipalities Bend lacks the money to make those projects a reality.
Neil Bryant: “The city has a significant budget deficit. So for this type of project, they don’t have the money. And if this doesn’t pass those projects will be just put on the shelf.”
Bill Lunch is a professor of political science at Oregon State University. He says the fact that the city is looking to its own residents to fund the projects is a reflection of the greater economic reality.
Lunch says it’s also an approach other communities might look to in the future.
Bill Lunch: “In growing communities in the state, and of course not everyplace is growing, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see local measures on the ballot to provide funding in one way or another for roads or other related transportation projects.”
Should Bend voters approve the bond measure, construction on the projects would last three to five years.
The bonds would mature in 21 years.