Business owners, former city councilors and state employees will be among the team who will explore new ways Salem can earn money to address rising costs and maintain services.
The city faces a $14.2 million budget shortfall in the next year, which would grow to $22.9 million in the next five years if city leaders don’t find a new revenue option or make cuts. The city is required by state law to have a balanced budget. While proposed cuts to spending are yet to be determined, the city hopes to soften the blow and maintain service levels with a new revenue source.
The last revenue task force met in 2018, and their suggestions included a monthly charge on city utility bills to fund city operations that was implemented in 2020. They also suggested a payroll tax, which failed at the ballot box on Nov. 7.
The Salem City Council finalized their revenue task force plans and schedule in December, and sought applications for membership in early January.
Overall, 157 people applied to be considered for the task force. Several withdrew after seeing when the meetings would take place, according to a presentation by consultant Moss Adams that broke down the demographics of applicants.
On Jan. 9, the Board & Commission Appointments Committee selected 25 applicants and two alternates, representing each ward and outside of city limits. Many have budgeting or administrative experience. Each councilor nominated at least two people for consideration.
The city council approved the selection during its Jan. 22 meeting. The team will have its first meeting on Jan. 30, then will meet at least once a month before providing recommendations around July.
The task force includes four business or property owners, a member under age 25, and eight members of color and five who speak a language other than English at home, according to a city report.
The group has limited diversity in housing and income, with almost all living in single-family homes they own. Just over half of Salem’s housing is owner-occupied, according to Census data, while 45% is occupied by renters.
Four said they have earned less than a livable wage in the last five years, and only one reported having experienced shelter or food insecurity, according to Moss Adams.
Applicants submitted statements of interest sharing why they wanted to join the task force. There will also be one non-voting member from the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, the agency that manages state contracts and employment. Each councilor and the mayor nominated at least two members for consideration.
Ward 1 (downtown and west Salem)
Beaton has a Ph.D. in economics with a focus in finance, and taught urban economics at Willamette University for over three decades. “I feel strongly about the budget crisis in Salem at this point, and believe that something decisive must be done,” his statement said.
Pamateer said many years managing Oregon Department of Transportation grant programs provided a perspective on local budget law and making hard decisions about funding. She also has experience on budget committees and in parks and recreation in her former home of The Dalles, and was formerly on the Salem Planning Commission.
David Rheinholdt – Latino Business Alliance Representative
Rheinholdt is board president of the Latino Business Alliance, and has served on the city’s human rights commission and police review board. He has lived in Salem most of his life, but currently lives in Dallas. His business, Rheinholdt Insurance Agency, is located in Salem.
Strathdee works at Intel and said she moved to Salem to make sure her taxes went to the community. “Hillsboro and Beaverton don’t need more taxes, but Salem does,” she said in her statement. She is a Willamette University alumna, and volunteers with Shangri-La and the Center for Hope and Safety. She said that she wants her community service to extend to the task force. She was appointed to the city’s human rights commission earlier this month.
Ray Quisenberry – 350 Salem representative
Quisenberry previously served on the 2018 revenue task force, and said he found the experience interesting and enjoyed helping the city. He’s retired and has lived in Salem since 1996. His community work includes driving for Meals on Wheels, leading Just Walk Salem, volunteering for 350 Salem, a group advocating policy to address climate change. He is a peer mentor at NorthWest Senior and Disability Services.
“I like to do my part to make Salem a better place to live for all of us. My intent is to represent 350 Salem on the task force, and (hopefully) be a voice for the climate and equity,” his statement said.
Ward 2 (south central Salem)
Loveall joined the South Central Association of Neighbors in April, and began serving on the board soon after. “It has been one of the best experiences of my life to be able to work with so many different people who want to bring change to Salem in the best way. I am motivated because I love Salem and I want to help it become better in any way I can,” Loveall’s statement said.
McKenzie is the director of people and culture at Marion Polk Food Share, according to the organization’s site, where she leads diversity and inclusion efforts and oversees human resources. Before that, she worked at the Oregon Judicial Department for over 25 years with a focus on improving juvenile and family court programs. She’s also directed programs at the YMCA, advocated for education for at-risk youth and was a teacher.
“I believe the services available for all people in Salem are necessary and important. I do not want to see reductions to community services, and I believe there are ways to increase revenue in ways that would be palatable to many,” McKenzie’s statement said.
Smaldone was on the city council from 1999 to 2002, and has been on the board of the Southeast Salem Neighborhood Association since.
“Throughout this period, I have been concerned with the City’s ability to provide high quality city services and I have been acutely aware of the problems of finance. I would like to bring my experience and ideas to the discussion of how to improve the City’s financial condition,” Smaldone wrote.
He’s also the department chair of Willamette’s History Department, where his research focuses on 20th century German and European labor history.
Ward 3 (southeast Salem)
Beth Vargas Duncan
Vargas Duncan was the city’s first Franchise and Revenue Administrator, from 2000 to 2006, and according to Linkedin, was a certification program manager at the Oregon Department of Transportation. Vargas Duncan is listed as the regional director of the Oregon Refuse & Recycling Association on their website.
“I believe I have information and ideas that could be beneficial to addressing today’s revenue issues. I was born in Salem, raised children here, and intend to stay. Salem is a great community and I’m interested in helping,” Vargas Duncan said in her statement.
Eckland has worked in the Salem Public Library, where she drove the Bookmobile and did English and Spanish storytimes. She also worked as a reference librarian at Chemeketa Community College and the Woodburn Public Library, according to her biography at Willamette University, where she is listed as the Associate Director of Career Planning & Development.
Ecklund is also the land use chair of the Faye Wright Neighborhood Association.
“I feel I am a good listener and I’m able to weigh different viewpoints fairly,” she said in her statement.
Raquel Moore-Green – Chamber of Commerce representative
Moore-Green was a member of the city’s 2018 revenue task force, and served a term in the state legislature as a Republican representing south Salem’s District 19.
When she ran for state senator in the 10th district in 2022 against Deb Patterson, she listed supporting small businesses, and reducing state spending and taxation on families as her priorities.
“My professional background in business, non-profits, and state government provides a well-balanced perspective to the need of revenue and services delivered. The time commitment for serving on this task force fits well with my ability to participate fully. It would be an honor to be selected as representative of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce,” her statement said.
Ward 4 (south Salem)
Hale listed his experience managing budgets in the United States Army and Oregon Department of Energy. He said his skills include outreach, policy development, administrative rules and legislative concepts. His Linkedin said he also worked as a Senate Reading Clerk for the Oregon Secretary of State in 2021.
“I look forward to working with others in a collaborative way to find solutions to our City’s financial challenges that are supported by all interest groups within our community,” his statement said.
Jenkins has three children who have attended school in the Salem-Keizer School District, and his family are active users of the city’s parks and library.
“I also know that these two services, in particular, but a whole host of services that serve so many people are under threat from deep budget cuts,” he said in his statement.
Jenkins pointed to his experience managing large budgets over $100 million and making tough decisions during budget shortfalls. According to Oregon State University’s website, he is the Associate Vice Provost of Student Affairs and Executive Director of University Housing & Dining Services.
“I am very familiar with how different types of government funds (taxes, grants, unrelated business income) can and cannot be used,” he said.
T. J. Sullivan
“As a prior City Councilor, I have a historical perspective and understanding of the city budget that could be useful to this task force,” Sullivan said in his statement.
He’s an insurance broker who was on the Salem City Council from 2004-2010, and ran as a Republican for the House District 19 seat in 2022 which former City Councilor Rep. Tom Andersen won.
Ward 5 (northeast Salem)
Cantowine is the president and CEO of Cascade Warehouse Company. In his statement, he said that in his work he tries to find a middle ground and that he wants to help find collaborative solutions for the city.
“I believe it is imperative that the business community be at the table in a productive way to help brainstorm and implement creative, forward-looking solutions to the City’s revenue challenges,” he said.
“I want to help the city meet the demands of its citizens,” Riecke said in his statement. He is the president of Bark Boys Landscaping Supplies, which was named the Salem Chamber’s business of the year in 2023.
Ward 6 (east Salem)
In his statement, Resendiz said he wanted to join the task force “so that I can learn more about the community that I have lived in for a long time, but I also want to give a place to those that want to belong in our community.”
Cathy van Enckevort
Enckevort said she’s a retired senior citizen who worked with at-risk youth and adults in correctional settings and with forensic patients at the state hospital.
“I am aware of the difficulty of providing adequate services with a limited budget. I am also a firm believer in being part of a solution,” she said in her statement.
Ward 7 (southwest Salem)
Beaman, who grew up in Salem and was a career military member, said she applied because she was concerned about the proposed reductions in service that would impact the homeless community. She said she’s comfortable with spreadsheets and cost projections and has experience with the Department of Defense budgeting process.
“I don’t know how many people have the financial security that I have, but it seems unconscionable to impact the houseless and the barely-over-minimum-wage folks and not touch those who have so much more,” she said. “I do not have any preconceived ideas about what ‘the solution’ to Salem’s problem might be, other than a desire that the impact be “fair” (whatever that might be).”
Nikas is a real estate broker, and the first-Vice-Chair of the Marion County Democrats, according to their website. He has also been involved in the Salem City Club and Salem Main Street Association, according to his social media. He was also one of Oregon’s seven electors in the Electoral College in the 2020 presidential election.
“I want to help my community find good ways to increase revenue. I believe we need our current level of services and must find ways to raise the appropriate funds to continue them all,” Nikas said in his statement.
Ward 8 (west Salem)
Collins has lived in Salem for nearly 40 years, first coming as a student at Willamette University. In his statement, he said he worked at SAIF, a Salem-based workers comp insurance and benefits company, where he is listed as the chief information officer. He said he manages large budgets and understands how to deliver to people who need assistance.
“Our city is continually transforming itself and needs leadership to not only provide for current needs but a long term plan to address the needs of our citizens. I would be a valuable voice in addressing our needs to balance budget with service,” he said.
Norris is the Director of Wildlife Policy & Communications at The Wildlife Society, according to their website, a conservationist lobbyist group where he has experience in administration, policy analysis and advocacy.
“I want to help bring creative ideas and solutions for the city to have diversified, sustainable funding streams to meet the demands of our growing city. I want to serve so I can be a part of the solution,” his statement said.
Outside of Salem
Levi Herrera-Lopez – social service organization representative
Herrera-Lopez, who lives outside city limits in east Salem, submitted his statement in both English and Spanish. He is the executive director of Mano a Mano Family Center, and said he has spent three decades working with families in the area.
“In all that time I have lived and worked in neighborhoods that need more help and where their journey is not always included, due to lack of connection or lack of availability of people. I also want to add my voice to help find solutions to the challenges our city faces,” he said.
Kathy Knock – City Employee Unions representative
Knock is the President of AFSCME local 2067, the union that represents many of the employees paid by the city’s general fund.
“I work in the city in multiple departments so I can highlight the impacts of options on employees across service areas,” she said in her statement.
Alternates will get all the same information the task force does, are expected to participate in meetings. They will vote in place of absent members during meetings.
The alternates are:
Gretchen Schlie, Ward 6
Schile used to serve on the Culver City Council in central Oregon, and said she was disappointed when the public would not get involved in committees and workgroups.
“I think it’s important that people work together to solve solutions and not just expect the government do it,” she said.
Nate Rafn, Ward 2
Rafn said he was born and raised in Salem, and cares about the future of the city. He said he has experience in business ownership, journalism, volunteer projects, mentoring and public education. He and his wife sold their restaurant, Rafn’s, in 2021.
“I bring a number of special skills that I believe will be useful to the Task Force, including business management, operational design, budgeting, research, and planning. I’m a resourceful and creative person who brings high standards to all my endeavors,” he said.
Correction: The first task force meeting is on Jan. 30, 2024. This story also originally used incorrect figures to describe the city’s budget shortfall. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.
Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-575-1251.
SUPPORT OUR WORK – We depend on subscribers for resources to report on Salem with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Subscribe today to get our daily newsletters and more. Click I want to subscribe!
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.