Property taxes are the major source of funding for the City of Corvallis, and paying people to provide city services are its major costs.
“It’s important to note as an entity that we are a service organization,” said Finance Director Nancy Brewer. “Most of what we do is provided by individuals. Our biggest costs are associated with salaries and benefits for the people who are doing the work.”
Brewer expressed concern that the city’s revenues are growing more slowly than its expenses. This year’s budget cut the equivalent of 13 full-time jobs and closed one of the city’s five fire stations to help compensate.
“Revenues are growing slower than expenses,” she said. “The [property tax] growth is limited to three percent a year, but our expenses grow more like five or six percent a year.”
Although people are still paying the required amount of property tax, state-wide initiatives have limited that amount. Declines in the local economy have reduced the amount of property tax paid by businesses, and the move away from land lines has cost the city in franchise fees. It doesn’t help that two major fixtures of Corvallis, Oregon State University and Good Samaritan Hospital, are both non-profits and thus not required to pay property tax.
To help bolster local jobs and perhaps pay off in more business property tax, the city is currently working to hire an economic development manager. While it’s hard to see that position as anything but an investment, other areas of the city budget seem overblown. For instance, the police and fire department each cost more than $10 million per fiscal year. Granted, that results in stellar response times, but taken together that uses up almost all of the city’s $20 million/year property tax.
Negotiating the formidable array of PDFs on the Corvallis website, it takes some digging to find the salaries of city staff. The police chief earns between $95,000 and $121,500 annually. Corvallis’ 40 police officers each make between $53,000 and $77,000 a year; the national average for an officer is $50,000 a year. It’s not like the city has a huge crime problem, as the violent crime rate is about one-fourth the national average.
Other salaries seem high, too. The Corvallis City Manager earns $140,000 annually. Granted, that’s lower than the city manager in Eugene, who recently decided to donate his $8,694 pay raise (which brought his total pay to $182,561 a year) to Eugene’s struggling public library.
In Corvallis, the public library’s director earns between $91,000 and $116,000 annually; even its 10 shelvers make between $25,000 and $31,000 a year.
Most city employees collect a pension after retirement. This year, the city will shell out almost $2.5 million in pension obligations.
Overall, it’s not as if Corvallis’ expenditures are that far off from similar cities such as Eugene and Albany. However, it remains a fact that city staff earn high wages—everywhere. Perhaps the answer isn’t to cut certain positions, but to reassess the top city staff’s high salaries.
Corvallis City Costs
Fund Proportion General: 34.27%
Arts Center: 0.20%
Fire & Rescue: 39.65%
Parks & Recreation: 15.72%
A Comparison of City Salaries:
City Manager: $140,000
Fire Chief: $95,256 to $121,572
Police Chief: $95,256 to $121,572
Finance Director: $99,900 to $127,500
City Manager: $182,561
Executive Director of Planning & Development: $107,868
Executive Director of Police Services: $107,868
Fire District Chief: $79,081
Police Captain: $86,361
Finance Director: $86,361
City Manager: $127,956
Fire Chief: $93,492 to $116,868
Police Chief: $93,492 to $116,868
Finance Director: $98,184 to $122,724
For more information about Corvallis’ budget, visit: