Below are some frequently asked questions about the 2022 Bond project. As community outreach and the project scope develops, these sections will be updated as more is learned.
Will this be voted on?
General obligation bonds require voter approval.
What can be paid for with an obligation bond?
The Oregon Constitution limits what local governments can use bond dollars for to capital costs. These costs can include the purchase of land, construction, improvements, remodeling, and equipment. Routine maintenance, such as supplies or employees are not bond elidgable.
Why a bond?
Like other local governments, the City of Salem issues bonds to pay for expensive infrastructure. After being approved by votes, they are paid back through property taxes. This is similar to a homeowner taking out a loan to make improvements to their home. Due to some of the City's existing bonds being paid back in the next several years, coupled with refinancing opportunities, the City is in a position to issue up to $300 million in bonds over the next 10 years without increasing the taxing rate.
What's all this about a levy rate?
A levy rate is the amount of money that local governments (cities, counties, water districts, etc) have been approved to assess on the value of a property. Due to legislative measures in the 1990's, local governments have been limited to the rate they can assess on properties in order to fund their expenses and on the value of properties themselves. Since these limitations were put in place, taxing jurisdictions have used bonding to fund large capital projects. When a taxing jurisdiction bonds for capital expenses, they go to the voters for permission to assess an additional levy which is not limited by the legislative measures. For the 2022 bond measure, the levy rate currently assessed for Salem bonds will not increase.
What sort of oversight will there be if the bond passes?
If the bond passes, there will continue to be an appointed group that will continue to serve as oversight for the bond. This is in addition to financial reporting requirements reviewed by an outside auditor as part of the annual financial audit.
Fire engines and equipment
Purchased with bond funds in 2006, Salem's fire engines and ladder trucks are nearly 15 years old and are reaching the equivalent of 400,000 road miles. Despite excellent maintenance, the fire engines and other life-saving equipment are in urgent need of replacement.
Streets and sidewalks
As funding from Salem's 2008 bond measure winds down, 66 projects citywide are complete and another 6 projects are underway . Transportation needs still exceed available funding. With community input, a new list of priority projects is being developed to:
- construct new streets and replace or add signals that improve traffic flow,
- provide safer pedestrian crossings and install sidewalks and safe bicycle routes, and
- rehabilitate and repair bridges throughout the community.
River Road, McGilchrist St SE, Doaks Ferry Rd NW, Battle Creek Rd SE, Browning Ave S, Fischer Rd NE, and Sunnyview Ave NE are some key roadways in need of improvement.
Salem has an excellent and well-used park system, but its aging facilities need updates. Replacing restrooms at Marion Square and Wallace Marine Parks and developing new shelters, playgrounds, splash pads, trails, pickleball courts, and dog parks are among the projects identified for community priority-setting. Community-driven Master Plans for individual parks point to other improvement needs citywide.
Sites for affordable housing and shelter
Strategic investments in new permanent housing and temporary shelter are linchpins in Salem's strategy to address the problem of homelessness.
Civic center earthquake safety
The Civic Center – the City's busiest, most visited public building – was built 50 years ago. It needs rehabilitation and repair to meet current earthquake standards and improve public accessibility. Along with energy efficiency, these improvements are similar to the voter-approved rehabilitation of Salem Public Library— which was recently completed and reopened to the community.
Technology and cybersecurity
Every aspect of City of Salem service to residents and businesses is reliant on technology. Lessons learned in other cities underscore the need for up-to-date and fail-safe cybersecurity. Other investments are needed to install a backup fiber network and data storage, and to replace aging technology.
Sites for future fire stations
Salem is planning ahead to meet community needs. It is clear the City will need two new fire stations in the next decade to provide timely response in emergencies and must acquire property now for the new stations in Northeast and South Salem.
What ideas cannot be considered in the bond?
The Oregon Constitution limits the use of General Obligation bonds to capital projects like rehabilitation of facilities, construction, improvements and the purchasing of land and equipment. Bonds can not be used to fund operational expenses like supplies or employees. The Infrastructure Bond Engagement Steering Committee is considering futher project criteria beyond the limits of the Oregon Constitution which includes projects that have little to no impact on operational expenses.
Salem River Crossing will not be considered as part of the bond measure due to the limitations of the amount of the bond and project scope.
What if the bond does not pass?
The need in the community will not change if the bond does not pass. The City will continue to have infrastructure needs that are greater than the current available resources.
If the bond passes, when will the funding be available for projects?
The bond will be on the November 2022 ballot. Upon the certification of the election by Marion and Polk Counties, the City will work with their financial advisor and bond counsel to quickly issue part of the debt as soon as possible.