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City Council supports Gresham Safety Levy on May ballot

February 22, 2023

On Feb. 21, the Gresham City Council voted in support of the Gresham Safety Levy to be included in the May 16, 2023, special election. 

“Our City is at a critical point in its history,” says City Manager Nina Vetter. “The demands on our first responders have increased as our community’s needs have increased. It is imperative that we begin to address our financial challenges and ensure our ability to keep our community safe.”

The Gresham Safety Levy will provide essential funding to not only preserve existing police and firefighter jobs, but also expand police, fire, mental health crisis response and homeless services. Gresham property taxes, one of the lowest in the state, only fund 44% of police and fire costs. Independent studies agree the community needs more police and firefighters—for example, simultaneous calls for a fire and medical emergency maxes out Gresham’s emergency response.  

Specifically, the proposed levy includes: 

  • Preserving up to 34 police jobs and 21 fire jobs.
  • Dedicating at least 62.5% of the levy funds to the Gresham Police Department, which would retain 13 temporary-funded positions and add 26 new positions including mental health clinicians, community safety specialists, support staff and sworn officers.
  • Dedicating at least 35% of the levy funds to the Gresham Fire Department, which would retain four temporary-funded positions and add 16 new positions including firefighters, deputy fire marshals, nurses, and nurses/emergency medical technicians to address chronic 911 calls. 
  • Dedicating no more than 2.5% of the levy funds to the Homeless Services team, allowing them to retain one temporary-funded position and add one new position to expand the team’s services to nights and weekends.

A levy is a five-year property tax voted on by the community that provides the City with resources for day-to-day operations. The proposed Gresham Safety Levy is for $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value. The average Gresham homeowner could expect to see an approximate tax increase of $28.50 per month. The first year would raise $13 million in safety revenue.

The City is legally required to spend any money received from the levy on the items listed in the ballot measure. However, to ensure trust and maintain transparency with the community, the City will establish an oversight committee made up of Gresham residents to oversee all levy funds.  

If the Gresham Safety Levy fails to pass, the City will face an $8 million budget shortfall beginning July 2023. Instead of adding new safety positions to protect our community, drastic budget cuts would reduce safety services delivered to the community.