Frequently asked questions
How can I tell what my Public Safety Utility charge might be?
The Public Safety Utility Fee would be based on the methods used to determine the transportation utility fee. Below are some example descriptions from transportation that you can match your transportation classification to the proposed Public Safety Utility Fee. Not every charge on the bill appears as a separate line item if there is more than one charge for a specific category.
Who would pay this fee?
Utility Bill account holders for developed properties within the city limits would receive a statement for the Public Safety Utility Fee.
The proposal is for Single-Family Residential accounts to pay $22.83 per month. Businesses are charged a flat fee according to trip generation and by business type and square footage.
In the proposal, approximately 91% of businesses have a Commercial A rate classification, and they would pay $76.23 per month.
If we as a community did not vote for this, how can the City impose a fee?
The Council can impose this fee under the Oregon Constitution and Municipal Charter.
Why do we need to pay for more police and fire if we are not asking for it?
In two of the last four budgets, the City needed to make cuts to police and fire budgets due to a lack of funding, which caused the City to reduce or not fill vacant positions, thus lowering the amount of service provided to the community.
Can this fee be adjusted?
The fee could be adjusted by City Council in the future if conditions change.
What about the Public Safety Levy? I thought that paid for police and fire?
The Public Safety Levy pays a portion of the funding needed for police and fire but has never covered the full cost. Current revenues are not keeping pace with the funding for community needs. The current levy rate for the City is $1.79 per $1,000 of assessed property.
Why not just tighten your belts and "trim the fat" in the budget?
The City must now seek an additional revenue stream to maintain adequate Public Safety. Every City employee understands the need to be good stewards of the City’s precious resources, and they work every day to optimize these resources, but that's not enough to close the funding gap.
Are there other ways the City can raise revenue?
The Grants Pass City Council previously tried other avenues of funding, putting various options on the ballot for voters to decide:
- Increasing the property tax levy–failed in 2008 and 2020
- Creating a Service District–failed in 2019
- Presenting a Sales Tax–failed in 2015 and 2022
Jurisdictions may impose a payroll tax. City Council explored the option of a payroll tax. These are wage driven and can vary between employer-paid, employee-paid, or both. City Council has not proposed this option.
I already pay a lot of money in property taxes. Don't my property taxes pay for these services?
All property tax revenue the City receives is dedicated to police and fire, which still does not cover 100% of the cost.
What is the General Fund used for?
The City's General Fund supports police, fire, park maintenance, and recreation programming, short and long-range planning, code enforcement, emergency preparedness and response, and other services that provide a communitywide benefit.
Do other communities in Oregon charge a utility fee and how much do they charge?
In Oregon, more than 50 cities use a similar fee, sometimes called an "operations fee," to help pay for some part of City services. The fee is collected through City utility bills. Every city that has a utility fee associated with Public Safety is different from the next. There are different levels of service, populations, and financial positions that make each of the rates and structures in the table different from each other. All of the cities are similar in that each recognized a need for more funding. Here are some examples.
- The City of Jacksonville charges a monthly fee in proportion to income; police is represented as $20.00 per month for income over 30,000; Fire is represented as $42.00 per month for income over 25,000.
- City of Medford has an approved escalated rate increase for police, fire, Livability Team and Revenue Committee over the next six years starting at $9.42 and increasing to a total of $27.79.
- The City of Albany has a monthly single-family rate for a 3/4-inch water meter. The rate table is as high as $1,890.00 per month for a 10-inch meter. The revenue generated from this fee goes toward Public Safety (69%), park maintenance (20%), libraries (7%), and a contingency fund (4%), which is vital to any organization's financial stability.
- In the City of Corvallis, the fees vary by meter size. Most single-dwelling homes have a 5/8 inch to ¾ inch sized meter. Initially, the combined fees came to $17.31 per month. On July 1, 2020, the fees were reduced by $4.27, following the successful implementation of the voter-approved 911 service district. The new combined fees come to $13.04. The fees are based on the Residential Meter Equivalent (RME) methodology. The RME is determined by the American Water Works Association’s methodology that reflects differences in demand for water service based on the size of the meter.
- The City of Veneta has a flat fee of $4.00 per month per customer.
- The City of Oakridge Budget Committee has determined the need for new revenue to allow the City of Oakridge to continue to offer Public Safety services, functions and materials, including full-time police patrols; advanced life support ambulance transport; fire protection services. The City obtains this needed revenue with a $31.00 per month fee per developed residential, commercial or industrial site.
- The City of Sandy’s Public Safety fee is a per-dwelling-unit fee set by the City Council and is $4.50 per month for single-family households and multi-family property owners. The per unit fee of $10.50 is charged to businesses. The fee is added as a separate line item on monthly utility bills.
Does my City Services Fee come on the same bill as my water, sewer, and stormwater charges?
Yes. It will appear on your bill next to the other line item charges.
Why have Public Safety costs gone up so much?
City services rely on people. Just over half of the City’s total workforce are employed in the Public Safety departments. Costs to provide service have increased as the cost of public sector retirement escalates and as the City of Grants Pass remains a competitive employer within the community and region. PERS increases are impacting all local governments. City PERS rates have increased since the 2010-2011 biennium. PERS benefits are covered by the general fund.
Senate Bill (SB) 1049 in 2019 was a piece of legislation intended to address the increasing costs of funding Oregon PERS by providing relief to public employers for escalating PERS contribution rate increases. For the City, SB 1049 leveled out the Tier 1/Tier 2 contribution rate for a short while, but there is still an overall trending increase. The long-term hope is that these rates will eventually trend down.
In FY’23, Council made the decision to establish a side account with Oregon PERS through the Employer Incentive Fund (EIF), which is a rate-relief program offered by the State. The EIF program matched 25% of the Council-directed $2 million lump sum contribution that will be amortized over the next 20 years beginning July 1, 2023. The current side account discount rate for the next PERS biennium is - 1.07%, which will lower the cost to the City.