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Voting no on the meals tax

As most of you are aware, Oregonians absolutely hate taxes. We stand firm and united in this agreement time and time again. A good example is the fact that there is no sales tax in Oregon. A sales tax has been rejected at the polls nine times in 90 years.

So, that raises the question, how do we fund essential public services, like our police and fire departments, without imposing some kind of charges on our citizens in some manner?

Simply put, you can’t. They are in every city’s budget somewhere and cities have to find this money. It doesn’t appear out of thin air. Rising costs of these services are out of the city’s control, but in order to operate 24 hours a day and continue the level of services we enjoy and expect, something has to happen.

Our mayor, city administrator, City Council and Budget Committee work very hard to develop our yearly budgets and manage them well. We don’t under-budget.

Sometimes we decide that a better way to serve the city and her citizens is to choose an alternate way of adding to our funding. We seek ways to sustain our small city not just now, but for the future.

We rank very high in respect to other small cities our size in Oregon. We can sleep a lot sounder knowing that police and fire services are minutes away. I can’t think of another city our size that can offer to its residents all we have here in this beautiful setting.

As a member of Jacksonville’s Budget Committee, my fellow members and I have struggled with coming up with ideas to generate revenue and sustain services, as do all other small cities. Many ideas were discussed and rejected.

At first, I was excited to think the meals tax could be a wonderful solution. As more research was done, the idea didn’t prove viable to me. I can’t support a yes vote for a measure that targets a small group of 12 to 13 businesses in Jacksonville, especially after the last few years of dwindling patronage due to forest fire smoke.

It seems ridiculous and irresponsible when we cannot figure out exactly how much income a meals tax would generate. We don’t know the exact revenue any local restaurant makes in any given year. We don’t know how many times a table turns over in a day; we don’t know the restaurants’ operating costs. No business wants their proprietary information out in the public domain, and who can blame them?

How in the world we can figure these numbers is a mystery to me. When you are writing a budget you don’t calculate by using smoke and mirrors.

While I can appreciate the value of a meals tax as a concept and the hard work of the meals tax proponents, the meals tax reminds me of when I decide to buy a large-ticket item. I research thoroughly, using proven agencies, forums, reliability reports, etc. I find the facts and the best information available. I don’t buy based on my friends’ and neighbors’ opinions or because I like someone. I do my own research and make a decision based on concrete evidence.

Using the same criteria for funding our Police Department, I will be voting no on Measure 15-180 — the meals tax proposal.

The $20-a-month surcharge to fund our Police Department, built with a sliding scale for lower income families, is the best answer to our conundrum. Your elected and appointed officials felt this solid, proven fee would continue to keep our citizens safe for the next five years. We are constantly looking at more and better ways to generate revenue for Jacksonville that are effective and sustainable.

Please join me in voting no on Measure 15-180.

Donna Bowen is a City Council candidate in the 2018 election. She serves as the current chair of the Historic Architecture Review Commission, is a Budget Committee member and is an active member of the Garden Club. She and her husband moved to Jacksonville in 2008.

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