Ballots containing an Albany charter amendment are expected to be taken to post offices today.
Linn County Elections Supervisor Derrick Sterling said his office was mailing out 22,004 ballots, and Benton County Elections Supervisor Codi Trudell said 4,700 ballots will go out in the vote-by-mail election that ends on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Sterling and Trudell said the measure is the only one appearing on their county’s ballot, which means the entire cost of the election will be borne by the city of Albany.
Trudell said she estimates that it will cost Albany about the same amount that Benton charged the city in March, when another charter amendment appeared on the ballot. That cost was $6,766.
Sterling said his office won’t know how much money to charge until the election is over. Linn sent a bill to the city for $21,409 to cover its March election costs, making the total city payment $28,175.
Money primarily goes for printing, supplies, mileage, computer services, postage and staffing.
Voters are being asked to approve a reworked charter amendment that supersedes the debt-limiting measure approved by voters in March. In April, the city council declined to put the complex measure drafted by Tom Cordier into the charter. The council balked, saying that because of a clause in the Oregon Constitution the initiative did not get the required number of votes for passage.
Then a group consisting of Cordier, City Attorney Jim Delapoer, City Manager Wes Hare, Michael, Wynhausen, chairman of the Linn County Republican Party, and Harvey Rogers, the city’s bond counsel, came up with substitute language that met with both Cordier’s and voters’ objectives.
This measure appears on the ballot.
City officials had objected to the original measure because it did not include a definition of the word debt, and the debt the city could incur was restricted to what it was as of Feb. 28, 2012.
Also the initiative stated no new debt or debt extensions would be allowed without the approval of a majority of “electors.”
The new proposal focuses on the word borrow and not debt, consequently, the parties agreed that there would be no debt limitation restriction in the new amendment.
The word “electors” triggered a lot of debate between Cordier and city officials. Did it mean the entire electorate or those who cast a ballot in any given election? The reworked amendment states that future debt would be authorized by a simple majority of those taking part.
Under the new measure voters would be required to approve all city borrowing, including:
• General obligations bonds, which can be used to pay for such things as street improvements, fire and police stations or any other purpose;
• Full faith and credit bonds, which can be used to pay for any necessary government purpose. State law does not require a vote;
• Revenue bonds, which can be used for upgrades to water and sewer systems.
These are the exceptions that will not require voter approval:
• Refinancing existing debt;
• Borrowing money as part of the formation of a local improvement district — for example to construct a new street into a subdivision. When the city forms a district, it borrows money for a project and then those who benefit pay the city back;
• Emergency exceptions, borrowing would be allowed when the life and safety of the city is threatened, possibly by something like a catastrophic flood that knocked out water and sewer systems.