ashland.news
April 14, 2024

Viewpoint: Getting clear about Ballot Measure 15-214

The Ashland Parks and Recreation office in Lithia Park. Bob Palermini photo
May 5, 2023

Ashland’s mayor makes the case for approval of food and beverage tax measure to help the city and its parks

By Tonya Graham

Here in Ashland, we love our parks, open space, recreation, and senior services programs. We also face a chronic financial tension in our general fund, which is where we get the money to pay for our parks and recreation programs, along with fire, police, planning and administration.

The City of Ashland needs to be able to match the right funding source with the right use to continue to deliver excellent services for our residents.

What Measure 15-214 does
  • Ensures that the city can access all of the food and beverage tax proceeds, freeing up millions of general fund dollars to support other essential city services.
  • Aligns one of our most volatile funding sources (F&B tax) with the programs in our general fund (Parks and Recreation) that can most easily flex in the event of a disruption, such as the pandemic.
  • Invests the F&B tax proceeds in programs used by both residents and visitors.
  • Creates a dedicated funding stream to support our parks and recreation programs.
  • Allows us to pay for large street repair projects using franchise fees, which our lenders prefer because they are a more predictable funding source
  • Extends the sunset date to help the City Council bond large parks and recreation projects that require more than seven years of financing.
What Measure 15-214 does not do:
  • Increase the total budget for parks and recreation programs.
  • Hand away the City Council’s control of the parks and recreation budget.
  • Increase street fees.
  • Change the authorities of the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission or the City Council.

This measure will not create a new source of funding. The food and beverage tax is already in place and is currently dedicated by Ashland voters to parks capital expenses (25%), administering the tax (2%), wastewater facility debt payments, and debt payments for large street projects (not for repairing potholes and maintaining residential streets).

Currently, F&B tax proceeds cannot pay for operational expenses for any city services. All current uses (except 2% for administration) are for capital projects. This means the city can use F&B tax proceeds to buy and develop land, but not to empty trash cans.

The city paid off the wastewater debt in early 2021, which leaves just two things we can currently spend F&B tax proceeds on — parks capital expenses and debt payments for large street projects.

Measure 15-214 asks Ashland voters to invest all F&B tax proceeds, except the 2% for administration, in our parks, recreation, open space, and senior services programs — restricting 25% of these funds for capital improvements. This helps the City Council bond large parks and recreation construction projects because lenders like to have payments on loans to the city tied to dedicated funding sources.

This ballot measure is about effective financial management that aligns the right funding with the right use, ensures funding flexibility year over year, and invests F&B tax proceeds in programs that Ashland residents and our visitors care about and use.

Ashland voters need to decide how to invest this funding now that we have paid off the wastewater debt. Last November, the City Council asked if Ashland voters wanted food and beverage tax proceeds to be used across all general fund programs. The answer was “no.”

Instead, Ashland voters want to continue, as in the past, to dedicate this funding to specific programs. Parks, recreation, open space, and senior services programs are the best choice for this investment.

Both campaigns have signs that say that passing or opposing Measure 15-214 will support our parks, but only one is correct — the one that calls on Ashland voters to vote YES.

Tonya Graham is mayor of Ashland.

Ashland.news welcomes Viewpoint submissions of 500-700 words. Viewpoints may be emailed to betling@ashland.news or submitted through the “Article Submission Form” link at the bottom right corner of the home page. Please include your name and city of residence with your Viewpoint (which will be published) and, in case we have a question, your contact information (which won’t be published unless you say it’s OK).

Jim

Jim

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