PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Salem City Council returned to the discussion table Wednesday to consider alternative routes if voters don’t approve a controversial payroll tax this November.
Amid a $19.4 million budget shortfall, the city council passed the Safe Salem Payroll Tax in July. The tax would go into effect in July 2024 and cost people who work in Salem about $40 per month to pay for emergency services.
The city introduced the tax as part of its Safe Salem initiative to help fund emergency services, including police, fire and sheltering programs. The City of Salem says it is estimated to bring in $27,850,000 annually.
The payroll tax would apply to work performed within city limits, impacting everyone living and working in Salem – even commuters. The tax would not, however, apply to those making minimum wage.
On average, city officials say a worker in Salem would pay $1.39 per day. But then Salem citizens created a petition to bring the decision into their own hands.
A referendum to bring the Salem payroll tax to a public vote needed less than 4,000 signatures to qualify for the upcoming ballot. Activists collected nearly 13,000 signatures — and the proposed payroll tax will now head to a special election ballot on Nov. 7.
Four options were presented tonight during Wednesday’s meeting: The first option makes reductions to police, fire and shelter programs along with libraries and parks, but minimizes the impact on police and fire. A second option would keep two park rangers and expand homeless services. A third option would not make any reductions to public safety. The last option will continue to fund sheltering services at their current amount.
Officials say that a soon as they have a revenue perspective, they will start the process of looking at the 2024 budget and make reductions so that we are in a better position in 2025.
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.