The City of Bend held a public forum Monday night to discuss a possible monthly transportation fee that would be tacked onto utility bills.
“We are looking at sustainable ways to fund our transportation system so that we can have better service, more options for people and really enhance the transportation system,” said Mayor Melanie Kebler. “That hasn’t really kept up with our growth.”
The city says it’s one piece of the overall transportation funding puzzle. Despite the $190 million transportation bond passed in 2020, the city says more money must be spent to maintain roads.
“We really just want to talk to folks about how the plan for this implementation of the fee came about,” said Kebler. “What it is, how it’s going to work. Hear their questions, make sure we’re answering them and taking their input on the whole policy.”
Bend homeowners may be asked to pay $10-$15 monthly on utility bills. The fee, which does not require a public vote because it’s not a tax, would be toward things like street sweeping and filling potholes.
Roundtable discussions on the project have already been held, but Monday was the first time that the public was allowed to comment.
“I have a mom that’s 85 years old,” said one commenter. “She’s on fixed income, Social Security and she’s on food stamps. She can’t afford $180 extra on her utilities.”
“What is the future of that going to look like?” asked another. “Is there a percentage increase? Is there some kind of upper limit of property tax increase or limited 3% increase per year?”
The mayor and city staff answered each question before allowing the public to talk 1-on-1 with the city about any additional questions or concerns they may have.
The $190 million transportation bond voters passed in 2020 can only be used for specific projects. The city says the transportation fee is to take care of general road maintenance.
The city will hold another roundtable discussion on October 11 and plans to make a decision by the end of the year.