Ashland will send meals tax to voters

Ashland's City Council agreed Tuesday night to ask voters to extend the city's sales tax on prepared food and drinks until 2030.

Voters will decide in November whether to renew the 5 percent tax, which otherwise sunsets in 2010.

Currently, 80 percent of the tax goes to make debt payments for past upgrades to the sewage treatment plant, while 20 percent goes for park land purchases.

Payments on current sewage treatment plant debt end in 2022. But the city faces new Oregon Department of Environmental Quality regulations on the release of treated effluent into creeks. DEQ believes the warm effluent is harmful to fish. The city has yet to decide how to deal with — and pay for — meeting those regulations.

Several council members worried that asking for an extension to 2030 rather than 2022 might alienate some voters. The proposed extension would allow tax receipts to go for sewage capital projects, without narrowing the focus down to paying sewage plant debt.

Without a renewal of the tax, sewage bills could rise by 60 percent to pay sewage debt, Ashland Finance Director Lee Tuneberg has warned.

— Ashland Daily Tidings

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