Dissolve renewal district

By Carrie Lane February 10, 2010 02:02 pm

As longtime residents of La Grande and the Grande Ronde Valley, we are disheartened to see the City of La Grande considering cuts to essential services and facilities that enhance the quality of life when an option with less overall impact still remains.

It is easy to target fire, safety and emergency services as well as the library and pool because they are the services most visible and utilized by community members and those which evoke an emotional response from people. The dissolution of the city’s Urban Renewal District is one option that has not been “put on the table” by the La Grande City Council.

Fire, police and ambulance services should not be cut except under the most dire circumstances, as these essential services are a core part of the community infrastructure.

The citizens of La Grande have worked hard to provide amenities such as the pool and library in our community. After many years without a community pool, the citizens of La Grande were willing to provide a pool by passing a bond measure. Not only have taxpayers already paid a lot of money for the pool through property taxes, they will continue to pay on the bond regardless of whether or not the pool is operating. In addition, there is still a cost to maintain a pool even when it is not open for operation.

The wonderful facility we have for our library was a result of years of planning and hard work on the part of many people. Large and small donations contributed to making the new library a reality. A library is a resource and a symbol of core values for a community. To close or significantly cut the hours of operation of the library would be a considerable cultural regression.

The City of La Grande should consider dissolving the Urban Renewal District as a remedy for the majority of the city’s budget shortfall. The Urban Renewal District is funded entirely by taking property tax dollars from other taxing districts, such as schools, 4-H and the City of La Grande.

Overall, taxing districts have given up $3,202,155 to urban renewal since its inception in 2000. In this year alone, the City of La Grande lost $347,338 to the Urban Renewal District. The total amount lost by the city since urban renewal’s inception is $1,480,755, all this coming from the city’s general fund.

The city’s budget outlook would significantly improve if the Urban Renewal District was dissolved. The City of Redmond, like La Grande, is facing similar budget woes. They recently dissolved their Urban Renewal District to improve their budget outlook, citing that it made more sense to dissolve the district in light of the current economic times.

The power to dissolve the Urban Renewal District lies with the La Grande City Council. We strongly encourage the city council to consider this option before looking at other cuts. Redirecting general fund dollars to urban renewal is pointless if the rest of the community is withering on the vine.

Submitted by Carrie Lane and endorsed by Rob Lane, Jerod and Brenda Andrews, Fred and Tara Bell, Derek and Gailen Cooper and Angie Abel.