Eugene City Income Tax Increase (May 2011)

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AnEugene City Income Tax Increase measure was on the May 17, 2011 ballot in the city of Eugene which is in Lane County.

This measure was defeated.

  • YES 16,799 (38.02%)
  • NO 27,388 (61.98%)Defeatedd[1]

This measure sought to implement a citywide income tax set at a rate ranging from a .49 percent to .9 percent increase depending on the income rate of residents.[2] The money from this tax addition would have gone towards helping the Eugene and Bethel school districts raising around $16.8 million a year for the two. The tax would have been in place for a period of four years and would have helped with budget shortfalls, maintaining school programs and staff. This income tax though would not have totally covered budget shortfalls for the two schools so cuts would still likely be made even if this measure had been approved. The May election date was chosen so that if this was approved it would have been implemented in time for the school year in November.[3] The mayor noted that this was not a permanent solution to the school's problems, it was just a temporary measure to ensure they could still operate and educate students. Many council members noted that they felt the process was rushed.[4]

An appeal had been filed against this measure, those who filed it said that the measure was not legal or fair to city residents. Those in favor of the measure were unsure the motivations behind the appeal but were still planning to go ahead with promoting the measure to other residents.[5]

Debates were held between the two groups opposed and in favor of the measure on April 19 and 29. The goal of the debates were to inform voters about the issue and have both sides share their views on the issue.[6]

The city council was set to vote on approving this ordinance, which would have enacted the income tax. The council had to approve the ordinance before the income tax could be implemented. Since the measure ended up being defeated then the ordinance will not go into effect, the ordinance would have only been implemented if this had been approved by voters.[7]

The pre-election ballot brochure had a printed error, leading to incorrect tax rates used in estimates on the proposed tax on residents. As a result, the tax examples underestimated the actual taxes which would have been implemented on residents in the measure is approved. The Oregon Secretary of State had to check for neutral ballot language but was not required to check the tax estimate.[8]


Those opposed to the measure noted that parents of students who live outside of the city limits would not have had to pay this tax, making it unfair to those who do live within the city. The group Citizens for Jobs and Schools was the main force behind the opposition campaign and raised more money than those in favor, resulting in more radio and TV ads against this measure. Those opposed were counting on voters to not want higher taxes, regardless of their desire to have better schools.[9]


The main group advocating this measure was Strong Schools Eugene and were hoping that the historical support for the school would continue in this vote. Lower voter turnout was also seen as beneficial to those advocating higher taxes, but those in favor were trying to inform as many residents about the school's needs so that there was the needed support.[9]

Additional reading