A 24-hour ballot drop site at the Banks Public Library. Photo: Chas Hundley

An election scheduled for Tuesday, November 2 will see few measures in Washington County to vote for; for those within Banks’ city limits, just one question will be posed to registered voters: 

Should local residents renew and increase an expiring levy that pays for police services in Banks? 

That question will come as measure 34-306; on the ballot for those within Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue’s district, which includes portions of Roy and Mountaindale, is measure 34-308. Voters in the sliver of Lake Oswego that lies in Washington County will also see several measures relating to that city’s parks system, but that’s it for Washington County. 

In areas such as Gales Creek, no ballots will be issued.

The election closes at 8 p.m. Nov. 2; ballot drop box sites are scattered throughout the county. In Banks, a 24-hour drop site is located at the Banks Public Library near the main entrance; elsewhere in nearby towns, a drop box is located on Pacific Avenue in front of the Forest Grove City Library;, and in North Plains at City Hall on Commercial Street. Other locations can be found by visiting the county elections division website.

Those using Oregon’s vote-by-mail system should note that a recent law passed by the Oregon Legislature to allow ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by the date of the election has not yet become effective in the county.

“If you choose to mail your ballot, be sure to have it in the mail at least by October 26, 2021,” a press release issued Wednesday by the Washington County Elections Division read. That same press release noted that ballots were mailed Wednesday to registered voters.

After January 1, 2022, House Bill 3291 will go into effect, meaning that ballots postmarked by the date of the election will be accepted up to seven days after the election, a similar system at least 20 other states already use, according to a list maintained by the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

Banks police funding measure would replace expiring levy and increase property taxes by $0.15 per $1,000 of assessed value of a property

The Banks City Council unanimously approved a local option ballot measure draft statement this summer, moving forward plans by the city to renew and increase its local operating levy for police services by placing it on the November 2, 2021 election ballot.

The revenue raised by the proposed property tax would pay for a 6-percent increase in the city’s cost for police services from Washington County Sheriff's Deputies. The revenue would pay for two Washington County Sheriff's deputies and their accompanying police vehicles, and insurance.  

Deputies Ryan Pope (left) and Frank Ward (right), pictured here on August 21, 2021 at the Banks BBQ, are the current two deputies assigned to serve the city of Banks by the Washington County Sheriff's Office. Photo: Chas Hundley

The new operating levy would create a five-year property tax of $2.50 for every $1,000 of the assessed value of a property within the Banks city limits beginning in 2022. The existing local operating levy of $2.35 expires on June 30, 2022.

If the levy doesn’t pass, the city will only have law enforcement responses for emergency calls with an officer who is shared with the entire west side of Washington County. 

Banks City Manager Jolynn Becker said the city pays about $300,000 annually for two Washington County Sheriff's deputies to be present in Banks 10 hours a day, seven days per week, or about $166 per year per resident. One deputy always is physically in the City of Banks unless called to another incident somewhere in nearby Washington County, she said. 

“Officers not responding to an incident has never been an issue,” Becker said. 

An explanatory measure for the levy says it is “necessary to maintain full-time police coverage in the City of Banks and to prevent the amount and effects of crime that occurs within the city to the residents of Banks, students of the Banks school system, and those who visit and do business in Banks.”

The city started outsourcing its police services in 2005. Banks had its own police department before then, but city leaders decided the cost of maintaining full-time policing was not worth it at the expense of other city departments, needs, and personnel.

“The city just had the money for the cost of staffing plus the cost of equipment and insurance, and so it would save revenue if police services were contracted out as opposed to having our own,” Becker said.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue measure would authorize TVF&R to issue $122 million in proposed general obligation bonds for emergency services.

The service territory of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. Map courtesy TVF&R

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, which serves huge swaths of the tri-county area, including portions of rural western Washington County and the city of North Plains, is asking voters to allow the issuance of $122 million in general obligation bonds to raise funds for a number of public safety projects. 

“Due to declining debt on existing bonds, the proposed measure would maintain the current rate of $0.1415 per $1,000 of assessed value unless assessed property values decline,” TVF&R said in a press release. 

The fire agency noted that the current total tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value for landowners in the TVF&R service territory is $2.1167, spread across an existing permanent rate of $1.5252, local option levy of $0.45, and a $0.1415 general obligation bond.

TVF&R said that it would use funds from the bond for the following: 

-Replace response vehicles as they reach the end of their useable life, including fire engines, trucks, and medical vehicles used throughout the District.

-Fund fire station projects including seismic upgrades, security features, expansions, or living quarter modifications at 10 of 29 stations. 

-Rebuild the King City fire station at the existing location. 

-Relocate the Aloha fire station to a more central location for local and regional response.

-Fund safety upgrades for TVF&R’s training center where responders practice fire suppression, emergency medical care, technical rescue, hazardous material response, and other emergency skills.

-Purchase land for future fire stations in areas where growth is expected to occur.

Unofficial early results of the election are generally posted online shortly after the election closes; this newspaper will also be publishing early results on the Banks levy and the TVF&R bond. 

The next election to be held more widely will be the May 17 Primary Election, which will see a number of primary elections take place for legislative, gubernatorial, congressional, and judicial positions. Several county positions are up for election, including those of Washington County Chair, and several commissioner positions, including Washington County Board of Commissioners Position 4, the district encompassing Gales Creek, Timber, Banks, Buxton, and more. Incumbent Jerry Willey has filed for reelection to his seat. Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington has filed to run again for her seat at the top of the county’s political leadership.