City News

YOUR GOVERNMENT: Council to consider new tax on worker paychecks

The Salem City Council meets Monday, July 10, to hear public opinion on the payroll tax before a vote on whether to implement it.

Councilors will also consider a motion to reconsider a zoning change in the Fairmount area that they rejected in a previous meeting, an ask for state help with housing planning and will hear about the potential for solar panels at the airport.

READ IT: AGENDA

Monday’s city council meeting, which includes a public hearing on the payroll tax, will start at 6 p.m. at the city council chambers, 555 Liberty St. S.E. Room 220. The meeting also will be broadcast online on Capital Community Media’s YouTube channel in English and with Spanish translation

You can sign up at the meeting to comment during the hearing. You can also sign up in advance to comment remotely, or submit a written comment.

To comment remotely, sign up on the city website between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday, July 10.

For written comments, email [email protected] before 5 p.m. on Monday, or on paper to the city recorder’s office at the Civic Center, 555 Liberty St. S.E., Room 225. Include a statement indicating the comment is for the public record.

Public hearing and vote on payroll tax

On Monday, councilors will hear from the community before voting on whether to implement a tax on Salem workers’ paychecks to fund police, fire and homeless services in the city.

The tax would apply to workers in the city of Salem making above minimum wage, at a rate of 0.814% of all wages, which comes out to an average of $42.19 a month or $506.24 per year for someone who makes $29.90 an hour, which is the average wage for Salem workers. 

If councilors approve, the tax would take effect July 1, 2024. If they reject the ordinance, the payroll tax would likely go to the November ballot for Salem residents to vote on..

We have a guide below answering frequently asked questions about who the tax will impact, what the funds will go to and what will be discussed on Monday.

Motion to reconsider Fairmount zoning

Councilor Trevor Phillips plans to make a motion to reconsider code changes in the South Central Association of Neighbors neighborhood that councilors voted against advancing in their June 26 meeting. If advanced, the ordinance would have allowed for taller buildings and fewer restrictions on development in the Fairmount area.

The 5-4 rejection came after councilors heard nearly two hours of information and public testimony on the proposed changes.

Phillips was among those who voted against the failed ordinance, but had voted in favor of a failed compromise proposal by Councilor Linda Nishioka that would have put a 45 foot height limit on buildings. Phillips’ ward includes a small portion of the SCAN neighborhood.

Phillips’ motion asks that the council readdress the ordinance, and to discuss the proposed zone changes again at a later council meeting.

Assistance for planning housing

The council will consider approving a letter of support for a city grant application to a Housing Planning Assistance Grant from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development. The city is requesting a consultant from the state department to help city staff develop a housing production strategy. 

The state is requiring Salem to adopt a housing production strategy by December 31, 2025, along with cities statewide that have populations over 10,000. The city council allocated $50,000 for the plan in the 2023 city budget, which can be used for other work or services if the state department awards the grant, according to a staff report from the city’s community and urban development director, Kristin Retherford.

Awards will be announced by September, with consultant contracts in place by December.

The plan would list the tools and actions Salem would need to address its housing needs analysis, adopted in 2022 along with the Our Salem project. Rezoning at the time allowed for more multifamily housing, and the next step is to promote production, according to the report.

The plan would focus on housing choice, access and affordability and would help the city coordinate its housing priorities.

Solar panel study for the airport

The council will also hear a request from the city planning commission to fund a feasibility study on renewable energy at the Salem Municipal Airport. The council won’t make any decisions on the subject on Monday.

The commission is looking to study the potential for solar power at the airport, according to a letter from Chane Griggs, president of the commission.

Griggs pointed to the space between the east taxiway, along Southeast Turner Road, or where Southeast Airport Road and Southeast Turner Road meet as potential options to put solar panels on the ground, where they would be larger than roof panels and generate more energy.

The system would cost between $2 million and $4 million before grants, Griggs said. 

Maintenance for Turner, Aumsville police cars

Councilors will also consider two separate agreements with the City of Turner Police Department and the Aumsville Police Department allowing them to use the city shop for vehicle maintenance and repair.

Both departments have had trouble getting sufficient repairs in the local area, according to staff reports by Krishna Namburi. If councilors approve the agreements, the departments would be able to use Salem’s City Fleet Services technicians, at 1455 22nd St. S.E. 

The city has similar agreements with the Marion County and Keizer fire districts, and has sufficient capacity to address additional needs, according to the report.. The annual revenue for the agreements is estimated to be under $10,000 each.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.