Ontario voters asked to give council more power, but impose limits on tax increases

Ballots returned early by Malheur County voters await processing at the Malheur County Clerk’s Office in Vale. (The Enterprise/file)

ONTARIO – Ontario voters will decide on two ballot measures in the May 17 election including one that boosts the amount motel guests pay for a room and another that add new limits on the city’s authority to increase taxes and fees.

Ballot Measure 23-65 will change the city charter in several ways. The city charter is the basic governing document for city matters. The ballot measure would allow the majority of the Ontario City Council to remove the council president’s authority.

A second change will switch how many votes are needed by the council to remove a city manager. Now, the council must vote by a two-thirds margin to remove a city manager. The new change will permit the council to remove a city manager by a majority vote.

The measure also will allow the city council to appoint or remove temporary municipal judges and to hire a city attorney.

The measure would:

•Allow the city council to remove any councilor who resides outside city limits.

•Require any council proposal to impose a general sales tax to be referred to voters.

•Require two-thirds of the council to approve fee increases.

•Require the city council to appoint a committee every 10 years to review and recommend changes city charter.

Ballot Measure 23-66 will increase the Ontario transient lodging tax from 9% to 10%.

The proposal is expected to produce about $120,000 in extra revenue each year for the city.

Ballots are already out for the May 17 election. Ballots are due back by 8 p.m. May 17. Voters can return their ballots by mail, or by 8 p.m. on Election Day to the county clerk’s office in Vale or into ballot drop boxes that are available around the clock.

Ballot boxes are at:

• The county courthouse in the rear parking lot.

• Ontario Community Library, 388 S.W. 2nd Ave., Ontario.

• Nyssa City Library, 319 Main St., Nyssa.

• Jordan Valley, in a lot across from the local post office.

New this year, ballots postmarked by Election Day will count. Previously, mailed ballots had to be received by the clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day. A change in state law allows elections officials to count ballots they receive for up to a week after the election – but only if they are postmarked no later than Election Day.