Voters this fall will decide whether to support a 0.5-mill, five year levy on the ballot to maintain current senior citizen services and facilities in the city.
City council at a meeting on Monday unanimously approved a resolution in favor of placing the measure on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The levy would generate about $200,000 annually, according to Council President Tom Susor.
Councilman James Seaman said the levy “is very important for our senior community.”
“It’s a very honorable cause and very worthwhile for our community. What’s good for the senior community is good for Oregon. We don’t operate in a vacuum. It’s for all of us. We’ve had a lot of surveys, studies, interviews and guesswork, to [gauge] support for a senior levy. It’s what I’m going to vote for, and I think most of council is very supportive, also,” said Seaman.
Councilman Sandy Bihn asked whether any of the revenue would go toward a new senior center or would it just be earmarked for operations at the current James Hancock Senior Center on Bay Shore Road.
Law Director Paul Goldberg said, according to statute, revenue from the levy could be used for a new senior center.
“I was informed that this is for operations and not for capital,” said Bihn. “This would indicate it is for both.”
“It could be for either,” said Goldberg.
“So it could be for a facility?” Bihn asked.
“Absolutely,” said Goldberg.
“So then we get into the discussion of `Does this mean the intent is to have the center where it’s at and expand it, or how does that fit into this proposal?” asked Bihn, a long time supporter of senior issues.
“It would give us the opportunity in the future if there was a choice to pursue building a new senior center,” said Mayor Mike Seferian. “Revenues from this could be used for it. If there wasn’t, we would budget it for operations. It’s nice to give you the latitude to use it for a building fund, or an addition fund, or whatever. And the [senior center board] would merely decide how this would be spent. I think it is accurate in saying it would be genuinely used for operations and services for the senior center, but not just limited to that.”
Susor said the funds would mostly be used for operations of the current facility, since it would “take a substantial amount of funds” for a new senior center.
“Predominantly, I understand it would be for operations,” said Susor. “I don’t think we want to get into a war about the logistics or finalities of spending by the board that would determine how and where the money is spent, and it should be watched and taken care of. I don’t think you want to tie the hands of the voters. They will ultimately get their opportunity to choose what they feel is best. Basically, we’re allowing the voters to decide a constant and consistent funding source for our senior community.”
“If they don’t know where the next money is going to come from, it’s hard to make plans. You need a few years to reach your goal. This would allow them to do that,” said Seaman.
Robert Marquette, president of the senior center’s board, said the funds would be used to support current senior services.
“It’s to expand on the services. I know the code and the resolution includes the word `facilities,’ which I think is misleading. We have no intention of building a senior center. Our intent strictly is to have senior services that are not available now.”
“The population of Oregon has a lot of seniors and older population,” said Bihn. “We are underserved and the need is here.” But she added that there isn’t much room at the current senior center to accommodate or expand activities or services.
“I think we get into this discussion in terms of how are we going to have these services because the space is very limited in terms of what you have,” said Bihn. “It’s always been the struggle. I will support putting this on the ballot, but I think we need to be very clear to the voters what it does or doesn’t mean, and what the plans are to provide these services. It’s an honest way to broker it and I would hope that would get you more support.”