The City of Bend held its final transportation fee roundtable on Wednesday, discussing a plan to add $10-$15 to residents’ utility bills in order to pay for things like street sweeping and fixing potholes.
One thing that has upset some citizens about the fee is that they aren’t getting a chance to vote on it. Because it’s called a “fee” and not a “tax,” the Bend City Council can pass it without voter approval.
“It’s like a tax, let’s be honest. Taking a fee from people it’s like taking tax. They just don’t call it that for their own reasons,” one Bendite told us.
“I’m personally against just tacking on fees at whim of the city without putting it to a public vote,” another resident said.
Central Oregon Daily News asked Mayor Melanie Kebler if calling it a fee is a way to avoid taking the issue to voters.
“No. The reason we’re calling it a fee is because that’s what it is legally. You also have fees that are on your stormwater, your sewer utility bill that account for projects that we need to build. This is very similar. We’re thinking about transportation systems as a service the city provides,” Kebler said.
A $190 million transportation bond voters passed in 2020 can only be used for specific projects. The city says the transportation fee revenues can only be spent on the street and transportation system. The money would not be available for other government services or functions.
The city has held three public round tables, but has not allowed public comment at any of them.
“There are many ways people can provide their thoughts and opinions which we haven’t closed the door on any of those. We have our council meetings, we have public comment, we have our email,” Kebler said.
Neighborhood associations are holding their own town halls on the topic, where public comment is allowed. The next one is scheduled on Oct. 25, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. at Summit High School. Kebler, City Councilor Mike Riley and city staff will be there. People who want to attend are asked to RSVP here.