ashland.news
April 14, 2024

Measure 15-214: Ashland voters asked to amend food and beverage tax

The Ashland Parks and Recreation office in Lithia Park. Bob Palermini photo
May 15, 2023

Change would allow funds to be used for Parks & Recreation operations, not just capital expenses, and extend the tax to 2040

By Morgan Rothborne, Rogue Valley Times

Measure 15-214 asks Ashland voters to amend the city’s food and beverage tax: “Shall the ordinance be amended to dedicate revenues to city parks, open space, recreation and senior service purposes?”

The ordinance for the tax on restaurant purchases of food and beverages was established by a public vote in 1995, according to the measure’s explanatory statement. The ordinance currently appropriates funds from the tax into three uses:

  • Not less than 25% is allocated to capital expenses for acquisition, planning, development repair and rehabilitation of city parks.
  • Up to 2% for the administration of the tax.
  • 73% could be appropriated for street repair or for city parks capital expenses.

Measure 15-214, to be voted on in the May 16 special election, would allow for more of the funds to be spent on parks and not be limited to capital improvements, which has been interpreted by Ashland City Manager Joe Lessard to be specific to large-scale infrastructure expenses.

A vote yes for the measure would alter the tax into three new allocations:

  • 25% could be used for city parks capital expenses
  • 2% for administration of the tax
  • 75% would be “appropriated more broadly for parks, open space, recreation and senior services purposes,” according to the explanatory statement.

The measure would also change when the tax would expire. Originally passed as a temporary tax in 1995, the tax’s expiration date has been previously extended by public vote. A vote yes for Measure 15-214 would extend the tax to Dec. 31, 2040.

A no vote on the measure would maintain the existing allocation of funds and the existing expiration date of Dec. 31, 2030.

Ashland voters offered differing perspectives on the measure in Voters’ Pamphlet arguments.

Those in favor often highlight a connection between Ashland’s parks system and a feeling of livability for the city.

“For the past 117 years our community has invested in a variety of parks, open space and trails to benefit Ashlanders of all ages and incomes. Our current neighborhood parks system provides needed outdoor space and recreational opportunities for many of our citizens living in apartments, smaller auxiliary dwellings and affordable workforce housing,” wrote Mike Gardiner, a former Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission member, in an argument in favor.

“COVID, fires and city staff shortages have affected every person in Ashland over the recent years,” wrote Jim Falkenstein in opposition. “In an attempt to rebuild a new sense of normal we need to share resources and help lift each other up. Just like our citizens, every department in the city could use a little more help. Police and fire continue to struggle to fully staff. Our billing department has been rebuilding after being completely closed for months.

“With all the various needs for assistance throughout town, the Parks Department is selfishly asking voters to single them out and give them 98% of all the city food and beverage tax for the next 17 years,” he wrote.

Reach reporter Morgan Rothborne at mrothborne@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

May 15 update: Corrected a portion saying the bullet points were about the original ordinance; they’re about the current ordinance.

Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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