Find out what’s behind the Ontario sales tax at Town Hall

The Malheur Enterprise will host a Town Hall on Thursday, March 29, regarding the city’s sales tax proposal at Four Rivers Cultural Center. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

ONTARIO – Local citizens get a chance to quiz city officials and learn more about Ontario’s proposed sales tax a public forum scheduled for Thursday, March 29.

The Sales Tax Town Hall, conducted by the Malheur Enterprise, will be held at the Four Rivers Cultural Center. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with a program starting at 6 p.m.

The Ontario City Council voted last fall to impose a 1 percent sales tax within city limits. City officials say they need the money to avoid layoffs and to expand city services. Opponents, however, have put a measure on the May primary ballot to rescind the tax.

The tax has been controversial. City leaders insist the $3.8 million it is estimated to raise would make life better in Ontario. Opponents, particularly some business owners, say the tax will hurt the local economy.

At the Town Hall, officials will explain how the sales tax would function and why it was selected as a way to raise money. In the second part of the program, Les Zaitz, publisher of the Enterprise, will question City Manager Adam Brown and Mayor Ron Verini about the proposed tax, city services, and spending. In the final part of the program, Zaitz will take questions from the audience for city officials to address.

Organizers of the ballot measure declined an invitation to participate.

“This Town Hall is a chance for the average citizen to meet city leaders face to face and hear directly about this issue,” said Zaitz. “I expect a lot of interest and a pretty engaging conversation.”