County Moves Forward with Vehicle Registration Fee Proposal

Clackamas is the only county in the Portland metro area which has no dedicated local funding source to maintain its 1,400-plus miles of roads or to build improvements.
Contrast that with Washington County, which has a local gas tax, property tax and vehicle registration fee that generate almost $50 million a year to help with its 1,300 mile road system, and Multnomah County, which has a local gas tax and vehicle registration fee that raises almost $18 million for the 230 road miles it maintains.

Though some new revenue has been made available through the state to provide support for important transportation projects, it’s not enough to meet the needs of resurfacing roads or funding capital projects to ease traffic congestion.

That’s why the county is considering a countywide vehicle registration fee, or VRF, of $30 per year per vehicle, for cars, pickups, motorcycles, vans and other passenger vehicles. The revenue would be split between the county and cities, so both rural and urban residents would benefit.

It’s estimated that the fee would raise around $5.5 million for Clackamas County to use in surface transportation improvements. Canby’s share would be approximately $331,281. Oregon City would net an estimated $690,807, while Molalla would see $183,294.

These dollars could be used for capital projects, pavement and general maintenance, and installing sidewalks, ramps and other improvements.

Gary Schmidt, director of public and government affairs, told the county Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that he and his team have held seven public meetings so far, discussing the need for and potential benefits of the new fee with over 200 residents and business leaders.

Though not all commissioners are yet on board with the proposed fee, Commissioner Martha Schrader said she supports it.

Commissioners have the option to institute the vehicle registration fee by ordinance (which takes only a vote of the Board of Commissioners) or by public vote. Several expressed reluctance to go the ballot route after a proposed gas tax failed decisively in Clackamas County only two years ago.

The matter will now go to a formal public hearing before the board early next year. The public will have the chance to weigh in on the proposal before commissioners make their decision.

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