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Low turnout at tax meeting

Published: Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 1:53 p.m. CDT

In an effort to educate business owners about a sales tax referendum, the Oregon Chamber of Commerce invited Ken Williams to speak during a meeting Monday evening.

Williams, owner of Pine Hill Inn and a member of the Oregon City Council made sure to let the four concerned citizens know that this was not a city meeting.

"This is set up for the businesses," said Williams. "Your vote is your choice. Thank you for turning out."

Williams said a flier with questions and answers about the sales tax was mailed to every citizen within the Oregon city limits.

The flier was sent by the Citizens for a Responsible Government, a group that Williams said he is a part of.

"I also went door to door to businesses to ask owners about the tax," he said.

Copies of the flier were made available during the brief meeting.

If the tax is approved, businesses would be required to start collecting the tax on July 1, 2013.

The state would also be informed of the new tax rate.

Resident Chris Martin was appreciative that the city was asking voters about a tax increase instead of just raising the rate.

Williams said by having the sales tax, everyone who shops in Oregon would be paying the tax.

The 1 percent tax would be used to pay for capital improvement projects like roads and sidewalk repairs, Williams said.

"This sales tax will only be used for capital improvement," he said.

Williams estimated that $240,000 per year may be raised through a sales tax.

If the tax does not go through, Williams said there are other options the city could take to raise money to pay for capital improvement projects including the issuing of bonds.

"Bonds are 100 percent debt," he said.

Any money raised from the tax could be saved and used in a future year to cover more expensive repairs or the tax could be used to offset the bond amounts, he said.

"I appreciate you showing up tonight," said Williams. "Vote however you want but please vote."

Certain goods and services would not be taxed if the sales tax is approved.

Vehicles and anything with a title like a snowmobile or trailer, groceries, prescription drugs and medications would be exempt.

Alcohol, cigarettes, hotels, and gasoline would have the additional tax.

In a call to Oregon Mayor Tom Stone after the meeting he raised concerns over the proposed tax.

"I, as mayor, do not think it is a time for any extra taxes with the way the economy is," he said. "I do not think a tax should be on the ballot at this time."

Stone voiced those same concerns in Aug. 14 when he voted against placing the sales tax question on the Nov. 6 ballot. At that meeting, the city council voted 4-1 to put the question before voters.

Monday night, Stone said he was also concerned over the informational flier that was sent out to residents about the sales tax.

The flier stated that bonds may be issued, utility taxes increased, or property taxes increased to pay for projects if the sales tax referendum fails to pass.

"We as a council have not discussed any increases at all," Stone said. "I think this is a scare tactic and I do not appreciate this at all."

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