White City seeks financial impact of incorporation

Even the most ardent supporter behind incorporating White City says she has trouble with very preliminary estimates of what creating a real city might cost local property owners.

Joy Reich, chairwoman of the White City Steering Committee, said her very unscientific review of an initial study on incorporation found the cost could be $3 or more for every $1,000 in property taxes, or about $450 annually on a house with an assessed valuation of $150,000.

"I'm afraid the taxes will be too much for people to handle," she said.

Reich, who has worked on the incorporation issue for years, said she hopes that a more thorough feasibility study that's planned to begin soon will determine the taxes won't be as high, which would sit better with local residents.

Some supporters of incorporation are pushing to put the question of cityhood on the ballot in November 2010. Reich said that would require the completion of a petition drive by next March, which she said could be a difficult sell if property taxes are too high.

"We're not going to do it if we don't have the support of the people," she said.

The push to incorporate comes as an urban renewal effort winds down in White City. Currently, White City is governed by Jackson County and has benefited from the White City Urban Renewal District, which diverts new tax revenue within the district to local improvement projects.

In January 2008, the White City Steering Committee approved tentative boundaries for a proposed city of about 5,000 residents.

Reich said she's also worried there might not be enough time to complete a strategic plan and feasibility study before March 2010 when organizers would have to begin a petition drive.

Incorporation can be put before voters only in a general election year, either 2010 or 2012, she said.

Some landowners in areas around White City have indicated they would like to incorporate so they can subdivide their properties to take advantage of the greater densities allowed within cities, Reich said.

But there is opposition, as well.

White City resident Tony Rieg has been an outspoken critic of incorporation, mounting a placard in his truck bed opposed to the effort.

"Why fix what's not broken — and we're not broke," he said. "But we will get broken if they come in."

Rieg said a lot of residents don't want more government, but said he's concerned there are many renters in White City who don't have to pay for property taxes but who could vote on the proposal. He said that could potentially effect an election's outcome.

With so much left to do before the issue goes before voters, Rieg suspects supporters will have a difficult time putting it on the ballot next year.

"They have to show everything about what it is going to cost," he said. "There's going to be more to it than what they thought."

He said the extra property tax isn't his main concern. Running a city always costs more than people think, requiring buildings, furniture, trucks and employees, Rieg said.

"They just keep adding onto your taxes or water bill just like Medford does," he said. "It's control they're looking for. Once they get their foot in the door, they've got you."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.

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