There has been a lot of discussion lately about John Day’s budget and priorities. As city councilors, we want to affirm that our efforts have been in the best interests of our residents and community. We work for you.
It was a difficult decision to refer a local option levy to our voters to help fund the police department. We did it after careful consideration of the economic impacts to our residents and following months of discussions with our staff and officers about the financial challenges facing the police department, which has run increasing budget deficits for the past 20 years.
The members of the Budget Committee, who are all John Day residents, unanimously agreed to refer the police levy because they value the police department’s services. They also recognize that the cost for this service has grown so large (1.5 times our property tax receipts) it can no longer be fully funded through our General Fund revenues. The information presented to the committee is on our website under “Latest News.”
Individuals outside of John Day have questioned our motives, claiming we are deliberately misleading the public and citing figures from our budget they clearly don’t understand. They have also claimed our urban renewal programs are depriving other public agencies of their tax revenue, which is simply not true. John Day’s urban renewal agency has led to the creation of new housing that will ultimately help our tax base and the other public agencies in Grant County, but no agency has lost revenue as a result of this program. That would be illegal, and we don’t have the authority to do it. We plan to address these comments and false claims at our next town hall meeting.
Lastly, some Grant County residents have expressed concern about the city’s land and property purchases to create public spaces that improve access and recreation within our city and rehabilitate buildings in our downtown. These investments are intended to put land back on the tax rolls at a higher value than it had before, either as buildable property or as public spaces for the community to use and enjoy. These efforts will ultimately widen our tax base, allowing us to reduce the cost of our services per household and sustainably fund government functions.
There is so much our city has done to be excited about, including recent grant wins that reduced the cost of our wastewater treatment plant by 75%; funding for a new pool and Kam Wah Chung interpretive center; and our roads and riverfront parks now under construction. We understand when residents have concerns. We encourage them to ask questions or voice opposing opinions. These help us govern well. However, spreading false or incomplete information is ultimately harmful to our discourse and our community members.
We need time for our programs and policies to take root, but they are working! Thank you for your support, and if you have any questions, please reach out to a member of the city council.
John Day City Council