Levy first of what may be hard choices

Anyone who has lived through tight times knows what it’s like to make hard choices – where and when to spend the little money we have.

That’s what Sweet Home residents, particularly, are beginning to experience in the political realm with the financial tsunami that has engulfed the city government, especially the Police Department and the library.

Not only is the city experiencing a loss of more than $280,000 from what city officials say their conservative estimate was of what kind of tax revenue they could expect for this fiscal year, but there are other entities that will be vying for the few dollars available out there.

One of those is one we need to think about right now: the local option levy proposed by the Sweet Home Cemetery District, which is on the local ballot for the Nov. 8 election.

Most of us think very little about the Cemetery District because it probably doesn’t play a very prominent role in our lives until we visit a grave or a loved one dies and we find ourselves standing on the turf in a local graveyard, gazing at the tombs of those who have gone before.

Even we here at The New Era, unfortunately, can’t give the cemetery district the attention it probably deserves. There are simply too many news stories out there competing for our attention and only so many bodies and so many hours in the day, and so many pages in the paper.

We know the district is operated by a board of three well-regarded citizens, Tom Hyer, Laura Mather and Mike Melcher, and a staff of longstanding employees. It has functioned without much fanfare for many years, but board members say it is in trouble now.

The district has a permanent tax rate of 21.66 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value and it is experiencing the same difficulties that other entities that rely on levies are.

The district has other sources of income, which are not generous at this point, thanks to low interest rates and other factors explained in our report in the Oct. 12 edition (available on-line at sweethomenews.com/cemetery-running-out-of-cash-puts-levy-on-ballot-p1126-1.htm.)

Consequently, the district has a shortfall this year and is proposing a five-year 8-cent local option levy in the Nov. 8 special election to help supplement shrinking revenue.

Eight cents is not much, but it will marginally increase the compression already being experienced by the Police Department and city library because it will be added to the other temporary levies we are already committed to – for the Sweet Home Police Department, Sweet Home Public Library and Linn County Sheriff’s Office.

The timing of this levy is unfortunate, given the fact that we have to vote on it immediately after hearing the sour news we’ve received from Albany and our own City Hall in the last couple of weeks.

The fact that the city and the police union are going to arbitration in just over two weeks is not reassuring either.

So in that context we will need to start making decisions as voters and the first one will be this levy.

It’s really a pittance – $8 per $100,000 of assessed property value. It’s a blip in the big picture of the financial difficulties we’re experiencing as a community.

What this does do for all of us is give us a chance to start thinking about what’s important and how our tax money should be spent.

Down the road are other questions. The pool. Law enforcement.

All these will spawn questions that we must find answers for – answers that will preserve and promote the security and livability of our community.