City News

Town Hall on Wednesday puts spotlight on cases for, against Salem payroll tax

Salem Reporter’s Town Hall on Taxes scheduled for Wednesday digs into the ballot measure that will answer whether Salem wage earners and those self-employed pay a new city income tax.

Ballots are scheduled to go out Wednesday, Oct. 18, to registered voters inside the city limits.

The Salem issue on the ballot: Shall City impose 0.814% tax on “wages” and “earnings from self-employment” performed within Salem to fund “community safety services?” Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

The Town Hall will start at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Elsinore Theatre in downtown Salem. Free tickets for admission for the 90-minute program are available online.

The program is designed to help voters learn why others support or oppose the new tax. It will start with a short fact-based summary of the issue by reporter Abbey McDonald of Salem Reporter. She has been reporting for months on city finances and the move to create the tax.

She will be followed by a 15-minute presentation by Virginia Stapleton on why voters should approve the tax. Stapleton is the Salem city council president and leading the pro-tax campaign as part of Save Salem.

Then, Preston Mann of Oregon Business and Industry will make a 15-minute presentation on why voters should reject the tax. The business organization led the campaign to get the vote put on the ballot after the city council approved it in July.

Stapleton and Mann then will be questioned by McDonald and Rachel Alexander, managing editor of Salem Reporter.

Moderator Les Zaitz, editor of Salem Reporter, will then present questions submitted in writing by citizens. Students from the McKay High School theater program will serve as runners.

The two sides are already staking out their arguments in the Marion County Voter’s Pamphlet.

Salem Mayor Chris Hoy submitted a statement, saying, “We need this payroll tax to help provide critical public safety services that will support our growing city. If there was a way to solve this problem without this measure, I would support it 100%. Unfortunately, given current state law, there is not.”

Stapleton, writing for Save Salem, said, “Salem is growing and the demands on our emergency services are increasing faster than the funding to support them. Emergency response times are taking longer and we can’t risk them getting worse.”

Opponents see a different city government.

“The city is already projected to collect record tax revenues from Salem residents. Measure 24-491 is a blank check to a city government with a never-ending appetite for more of your hard-earned money,” wrote Preston Mann in a statement on behalf of Defeat the Tax on Salem Workers.

“While Salem says they don’t have enough money for public safety, they found enough to subsidize a cheap no-frills airline to fly people out of Salem to Las Vegas,” said a statement filed by the Taxpayers Association of Oregon.

The Town Hall is an independent presentation by Salem Reporter, provided as a public service, according to Zaitz.

“Salem has not had such a community gathering in a long time,” Zaitz said. “This is a great opportunity for voters to get information directly, to hear the arguments, and to be fully informed ahead of their votes.”
Capital Community Media will broadcast the event live and KMUZ community radio plans to air an abridged show.

Questions for the panelists can be submitted ahead of time by email to Zaitz at [email protected].

STORY TIP OR IDEA? Send an email to Salem Reporter’s news team: [email protected].

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