Ontario leaders will be on hand Thursday, March 29 at Four Rivers Cultural Center to answer questions about a proposed city sales tax during a Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Malheur Enterprise. (The Enterprise/File).

ONTARIO – Ontario Mayor Ron Verini said he is looking forward to a Town Hall session set Thursday, March 29, at Four Rivers Cultural Center that focuses on the city’s proposed sales tax.

The town hall, conducted by the Malheur Enterprise, begins at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

Verini said the town hall will be a good way to “get the facts into the public’s hands and talk about the reasons why.”

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, Verini and City Manager Adam Brown will explain how the sales tax would function and why it was selected as a way to raise money. 

Verini said the more information voters have on the tax the better off the community will be.

“The consequences of both sides of the picture are important for the community to understand,” said Verini.

In the second part of the town hall program, Les Zaitz, publisher of the Enterprise, will question Brown and 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.

Opponents who organized the petition effort that put the sales tax before voters declined 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.”

Verini said he is confident voters will approve the sales tax.

“Absolutely, without any question,” said Verini.

Verini said once voters get the facts, they will see the need for the levy.

“I have talked with many of our seniors, talked with some of the youngsters over at the coffee shop and just in general conversation. Once they have the facts in front of them they realize the reality of the situation,” said Verini.

Verini said the sale tax “ends up saving our citizens money.”

“Approximately 74 percent of what we will received from the 1 percent (sales tax) will be from outside of the community,” said Verini.

 

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] Or 541 473-3377.