Alert taxpayer advocate rings alarm bell | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Alert taxpayer advocate rings alarm bell

A taxpayer advocate may have just saved Deschutes County taxpayers $2.5 million. Neither an elected official nor a court-appointed auditor, Larry Fulkerson wields the everyday power of engaged citizenship. This wakeful watchdog spotted a suspicious anomaly and barked until it got the attention it deserved.

When 911 district Director Rob Poirier asked the county commission to place the renewal of an expiring 23-cent property tax on the May ballot, Fulkerson wondered if it was justified. He pored over financial reports, crunched numbers, and framed this striking fact: The district has nearly $12 million in reserve and contingency funds.

Fulkerson asked Poirier and the commissioners why an agency with a $7.5 million budget needs $6.7 million in annual property tax revenue when it has $12 million in the bank. They promised to look over his summary and get back to him.

Fulkerson drafted an argument opposing the measure for the Oregon Voters' Pamphlet. He was clear—as a former Coast Guard search and rescue pilot, he wanted the district to have the resources it needs to keep us safe. But he warned safety officials the numbers just didn't look justified. He piqued the skepticism of journalists who hadn't scrutinized financial reports. He got telephones ringing and emails zinging.

Their seats heated by the spotlight, Poirier and the commissioners reassessed the district's needs and lowered their levy request to 20 cents. If voters approve the ballot measure, the 3-cent reduction will ease their property tax burden by about $495,000 a year—a total of $2,475,000 over five years.

Satisfied that the levy request has been pared to the right amount, Fulkerson now says yes. He has withdrawn his opposition argument and will use the $400 filing fee to declare his support for the measure in the voters' pamphlet. That must come as a relief to the public servants whose nerves were jangled by the alarm bell. They couldn't ask for a more credible ally than a citizen watchdog who shows up, pays attention and demands accountability. A GLASS SLIPPER for engaged citizens.

Business community shows airline the money

A number of Central Oregon businesses have hoped for a daily flight to Los Angeles since Horizon Air ceased its Redmond-to-L.A. service in 2010. American Airlines recently warmed to the idea but required substantial evidence of the community's earnestness before launching the service.

Acting on incredibly short notice, Economic Development for Central Oregon broadcast an appeal and in 10 days collected pledges exceeding the $350,000 minimum requested by American Airlines.

If those pledges are all paid up by Friday in the form of tickets with no date attached, American is apt to start the route, perhaps as soon as early summer. The ticket buyers are to be commended for making the flight viable. In addition to serving their own need to establish and grow Southern California ties, they've made the destination more accessible to vacation travelers on both ends of the planned flight. Kudos.

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