A service tax district for Columbia County Rider (CC Rider) could come soon if voters pass a measure to implement one in November.
On Wednesday, April 3, St. Helens City Council passed a resolution to approve a county order to be included in a service tax district for public transit should constituents vote in favor of one. Simply put, the resolution states that should voters approve a service tax district, the city consents to being included in that district, as formation of a district would not be possible without their inclusion. No tax will be realized until constituents vote on the measure in November.
County Commissioner Margaret Magruder said by phone interview on Tuesday that Todd Wood, Transit Director for CC Rider, is going to city councils throughout the county to sign resolutions to agree to be included in the service tax district.
The proposed service tax would be $0.18 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, which would bring in an additional $1,000,889 for the system, according to a document that Wood shared with St. Helens City Council on Wednesday. The rate is calculated to keep up with inflation, while also potentially expanding for future growth in the area, the document states.
“This places our system in line with our neighbors in Clatsop, Tillamook, and Lincoln Counties,” the document states. The revenue of Tillamook and Lincoln Counties’ transit systems was included in a chart during Wood’s presentation. Tillamook County has a property tax of $0.20 per $1,000 assessed property value, bringing in $998,974 of additional revenue for its population of roughly 26,000. Lincoln County has a property tax of $.0974 per $1,000 assessed property value, bringing in $741,634 of additional revenue for its population of roughly 49,000. Numbers for Clatsop were not included in the document.
The system has struggled for a few years and passed significant cuts in February to bridge the funding gap. Several meetings have taken place within the last few months to inform the community about the lack of funding for CC Rider. At the most recent meeting, a public hearing on Jan. 30, Wood told the gathered audience that CC Rider faces a budget shortfall of $600,000. The system, Wood said, has been “running in the red” for a few years.
According to the document that Wood shared with the council, the reason is that “CC Rider is one of only a handful of systems in the state that receive no local tax revenue to fund the system.”
The monies that do fund the system are gathered from grants, fares, contracted revenue, the county general fund and other contributions, but have not been enough to close the funding gap. Wood has said the missing piece of the puzzle is that there is no tax base that funds the system.
Columbia County has proposed a service tax district for the transit system a few times in the past few years, including Measure 5-251 in 2016. However, voters have never approved a service tax district for CC Rider.