Nov 15, 2007

Piluso Won't Support Multco BIT Revenue Sharing

I attended a campaign event for Multnomah County Commissioner #4 candidate Carla Piluso this morning at the Troutdale General Store. At the event, I asked Piluso if she would commit today to long term support for revenue sharing of Multnomah County's business income tax with east Multnomah County's four cities- Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview, and Wood Village. Piluso's first answer was a generic non-answer. So I asked her again. She said no, she could not make that commitment.

Last year, the County Commission notified the four cities of its intent to end the revenue sharing deal in 2008. As reported in the June 24 Oregonian,

"Despite an appeal by east Multnomah County leaders, Multnomah County's Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Thursday to begin terminating a 30-year arrangement that sent millions in countywide business income taxes to the cities of Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village."

After strong opposition from the east county cities, the County Commission relented, at least temporarily. As reported in the September 20th Oregonian,

"Since then, budget-strapped county officials have indicated a willingness to negotiate, but last week Commissioner Lisa Naito offered a plan that cut Gresham out as a tax recipient, while continuing to fund the other three. Today, representatives from all four cities testified against that plan. Naito, who received Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey's support in the 3-2 vote, said she is fulfilling her promise to the small cities to continue their tax. East county representative Lonnie Roberts said he expects to introduce a resolution to keep the tax for all four. Commissioner Jeff Cogen agreed the county shouldn't rush to eliminate the cities' revenue but that the current arrangement isn't "sustainable."

Fast forward to October 4 of this year, when the County Commission voted to continue funneling the east county cities share of the BIT for the time being. From the Oregonian:

"Multnomah county commissioners today voted to continue funneling a business income tax to four cities in east county but said discussions would continue on how to phase out the tax.

County officials notified Gresham, Wood Village, Fairview and Troutdale in June 2006 that they planned in June 2008 to end the 30-year revenue-sharing agreement. City officials were alarmed, since the tax makes up -- depending on the city -- between 7 percent and 10 percent of their general funds and is a key public-safety funding source. Jointly, the cities received $5.9 million in 2006-07, according to the county.

Proposed by Commissioner Lonnie Roberts, the resolution also includes an amendment for a work group to analyze where tax revenue is generated. Commissioner Lisa Naito, who had proposed taking the tax away from Gresham but keeping it for the three smaller cities, said the county should use it to fund projects such as a treatment facility for people with mental illness, a justice center in east county or the Sellwood Bridge repair."

A majority of the current County Commission believe that this business income tax(BIT) pass through is "unsustainable", as county chair Ted Wheeler put it.

The negative financial impact on Troutdale would be approximately $500,000, or about 6% of our general fund budget. If we lose this revenue, we will be staring at the probability of city employee layoffs, reduced police and fire protection, little or no parks maintenance, no recreation program, etc.

The county and the cities negotiated in 1985 to share the count business tax revenues in order to prevent us from imposing our own business taxes. As long as Multnomah County is collecting the BIT, the east county cities deserve their share.

I will support the candidate for Multnomah County Commission position #4 that supports BIT revenue sharing to east Multnomah County cities.

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