Since building a home in Manzanita twenty years ago, I’ve seen inflation increase by 65%and Tillamook County property taxes increase by 76%. Property tax levies, both local and countywide for special interests such as Library, Tillamook County Bonds, School Bonds, Tillamook County Community College, North County Recreation District (Pool) account for some of the increase.
Meanwhile Manzanita City staff has increased 89% from 9 to 17 positions.
Property tax increases will continue with deferred needs for streets, water, storm sewer, water tower repair, health building.
Meanwhile Manzanita’s resident population has remained about the same at 600 permanent residents and short term rentals(STR) have increased dramatically. STR revenues accounting for about 65% of the city budget. Past City Councils bent the rules to add more STRs to further expand revenues. No one has identified how much of the city budget and increases are traced to the growth of STRs.
The higher ups say property tax increases are restricted and STR funds have therefore become a primary source of funding the City.
To the permanent resident, it seems like the tail is wagging the dog. All the increased revenues support short term renters adversely affecting neighborhoods while the atmosphere of our once pleasant village.
City higher ups wanted a new City Hall building. The first overly large and expensive plan was voted down by voters by a 68% margin. And the City of Manzanita has been raiding the water fund to pay for consultants and loan debt to purchase the Underhill property for years.
Basically, our City Council has not been financially prudent. They are volunteers. They are well meaning. Fortunately, for us, they have to balance a budget. But they don’t seem to care where the money comes from or the opportunity cost of what is sacrificed in the process. Their decisions unwittingly are causing future tax increases by
– Transferring water funds through a cherry picked consultant process to apply water funds to current uses in the General Fund. This virtually guarantees future water sewer rate hikes and other new monthly utility fees.
– City Council encouraged development by not making developers carry the full weight of the costs of their developments. System development charges were not regularly increased for years. The effects of short term rentals on parking, neighbors, police , trash were ignored.
– Taking on a largely unnecessary City Hall project, the City didn’t keep the Lenada Street City Hall building from leaking and mold developed. The higher ups decided it was better to indebt the City $10 million or more than properly maintain the old City Hall. The plan was justified as a move out of the tsunami zone. Actually the old City Hall site was already out of the tsunami zone. Frankly, I think we should have maintained the building properly and saved the millions of dollars they spent for true infrastructure needs for the citizens.
Like many public projects, somebody gets an idea and then finds ways to justify it. The Underhill site, for example, was originally pitched to renovate the existing building as City Hall. But once owned, the building was deemed unusable and a new dream for a new building was hatched. The fact that few need to go to City Hall, especially at a commercially useful (kept on property rolls)and visible Underhill site is never debated. Meanwhile, the higher ups overpay for Underhill, raid every source of funds to pay principle and interest, handcuff City financing and virtually guarantee future tax increases and new fees for services.
So when I read “Why is The Water System Building Our City Hall” I saw a fellow canary in a coal mine. The author will be criticized by some and ignored by the higher ups. The City calls him dangerous. But he is correct in his reporting of improper transfer of water funds. By the time taxpayers realize what has been going on, it will be too late.
I suspect many City Council members and City Managers, have a self-serving view of city revenues and expenses. Projects are approved on an ad hoc basis and any source of other people’s money will do. Reductions in City staff or expenses to save for future needs? Well that just doesn’t happen. But one day the chickens will come home to roost and property owners will be forced to pay the bill. Meanwhile, the higher ups will congratulate each other for slipping another $191,000 in water funds or $500,000 in timber sales past the public for their pet projects.
Bottom line is we will probably get a City Hall we didn’t need and most won’t use, the City coffers will be depleted and City Council will seek higher taxes and fees for the necessary storm sewer and water projects they did not reserve revenues to fund. Sad to see this happen in Manzanita.