Surrounded by nine of her 14 children, Debbie Beck said she has enough mouths to feed without having to pay about $200 a year in extra taxes so White City can be a real city.
"We're just not for all this increase in taxes," said the 47-year-old mother, who has four biological children and 10 adopted kids. "Our food bill is high enough."
Beck, who walked with her family to the 7-Eleven for Slurpees, said most of the people she knows would be opposed to the idea of increasing property taxes to pay for the incorporation of White City.
Petitioners, who argue White City has a lot to lose if it doesn't incorporate, started seeking signatures Thursday from residents to qualify for the ballot this November. The last city to incorporate in Jackson County was Shady Cove in 1952.
The petition received approval from the Jackson County Clerk's office Thursday, but petitioners say they have set themselves a deadline of Tuesday to collect 618 valid signatures to leave time for hearings and other legal requirements. They will attempt to collect a total of 800 signatures to cover any that are disqualified. There are 3,086 registered voters in the proposed city boundaries.
A feasibility study prepared for Jackson County finds an incorporated city would need $1.45 per $1,000 in assessed valuation to help pay for roads, parks and administration. For a home with an assessed value of $150,000, that amounts to $217.50
annually. Homeowners should check their own tax statement to determine the assessed value — not the real market value — of their property.
Supporters of incorporation say people who have a knee-jerk reaction against taxes don't realize what's at stake if incorporation doesn't happen.
The White City Urban Renewal District has invested
$70 million in new roads, parks
and other improvements. Without a city government, those assets might not be well-maintained, they say.
Incorporation will aid in subdividing residential areas, could increase real estate values and provide a community identity, which would help attract new businesses, supporters say.
Joy Reich said creating a real city will help White City change its image.
"We don't have any real identity," she said. "Our identity is tied in with being the armpit of the valley."
She supports incorporation, but is concerned not enough time is available to sell the idea to local residents to qualify for the ballot.
Cindy Mohar, one of the chief petitioners, said homeowners in White City have been paying $1.65 per $1,000 in assessed valuation for the urban renewal agency, which will be dropped from the tax rolls before any city tax starts. By paying $1.45 per $1,000 to a city government, residents would save 20 cents, but receive more local control, she said.
"Taxes will go down, but they will get better service," Mohar said.
She said she thinks White City's image has improved markedly since the urban renewal district formed.
With just six days to collect signatures, Mohar said there isn't much time.
She said it takes quite a bit of explaining so people understand about the need for incorporation. So far, she's received generally favorable responses, she said.
"I think that once it's explained, people like the idea," Mohar said.
She pointed out that Jackson County has set aside $1 million in urban renewal dollars to help pay for a city hall, but only if White City is incorporated.
If voters approve the ballot measure, the new city would generate $738,041 in revenue during the first year, according to the feasibility study. Most of that money — $430,169 — would come from the $1.45 assessment. Expenses would be $687,750 in the first year.
By the third year, revenues would increase to $2,142,111 as state gas tax revenue, franchise fees and other sources of income kick in. Expenditures would rise to 1,338,063.
Joe Strahl, president of Public Works Management Inc., the company that prepared the feasibility study, said the projected budgets anticipate creating a sufficient financial cushion so the fledgling city can undertake new projects and plan for the future.
Stan Alexander, one of the petitioners, said this is at least the third attempt to incorporate White City in the past 15 years. His family has lived in the White City area since the late 1930s, and he has always been upset that the tax dollars from local citizens didn't get returned to the community until the urban renewal district was created.
"I'm just a little bit fussy about the government spending the money in the right places," he said.
Urban renewal dollars have improved streets and made White City a better area to live, he said. When people tell him they don't want to spend money for a local government, he tries to remind them of what it used to be like in White City.
"They abused us and siphoned off our money for years," he said. "Do you want it to go back to that?"
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.