Proposal to put 15-cent tax-rate increase on Aug. 2 ballot fails after 'no' vote cast
June 01, 2005 - An ordinance to place a 15-cent tax-rate increase before Crestwood voters in August died when a "no'' vote for a second reading of the measure was cast by Ward 2 Alder-man Tim Trueblood.
Mayor Roy Robinson had called the special session of the board May 23 — the day before the deadline to place proposals on the Aug. 2 ballot. Under the City Charter, to adopt an ordinance, at least five of eight aldermen must vote in favor of it and at least one week must elapse between introduction and final passage unless an immediate second reading is approved by unanimous vote of the Board of Aldermen.
As proposed, the 15-cent tax-rate increase would have generated $365,000 for police and firefighter pensions, which currently are covered by the general fund. In effect, creating the tax for police and firefighter pensions could free up cash for the ailing general fund.
During the special meeting, several aldermen questioned the haste in which the special meeting was convened and the wisdom of seeking a tax-rate increase after the April 5 defeat of a proposed bond issue.
Mayor Roy Robinson said, "Tonight we are having this special meeting because the Ways and Means (Commit-tee) recommended that we attempt to put a tax issue on the ballot on August the second and I'd like to say this about whether we proceed on this or not. If there's any alderman here that has already decided they will not vote affirmative on the first vote, there is no reason to go on. If anyone thinks they cannot support for a second reading, now is the time to speak because we're wasting everybody's time ...''
Ward 3 Alderman Don Maddox said, "The Ways and Means Committee did meet and both (Ward 1) Alderman (Richard) LaBore and I were reluctant to proceed with this proposal because it's only been like six, seven weeks since we lost the previous election. But we thought that it should be a subject that should be decided by the entire board and that was the reason we passed it on to the board ...''
Trueblood later asked Robinson, "Mr. Mayor, do you support this tax increase?''
Robinson said, "Yes I do.''
Trueblood asked, "If it were to fail, what would be your alternatives ...''
Robinson said, "Well, we won't go into that right now.''
Trueblood said, "It's important that we know so if we're going to vote yes or no, I think that's an important question to answer.''
Robinson said, "Well, OK if you want to know what it is, this is part of a plan to — if this tax is approved by the people, it will be one step in trying to stabilize the revenue that's coming into the city. Without this, without any revenue at least for the 2006 budget, drastic cuts will have to be made in order to do that.
"And one of the things I talked about previously is that I think the people of the community do not want the level of services to be cut ...,'' he added.
"Well, I know that we were told that when they voted no, they clearly told us that that wasn't the case ...,'' Trueblood said, adding that it was made very clear that if the bond issue failed "the city had no other option and I think they pretty well spoke clearly to us that that's what they wanted by the returns of that particular election.''
Robinson said, "Well, the thing about it is the previous bond issue was a borrow, interest to be paid, payments made to bond people who issued the bonds. This one is a no cost except it's a tax proposal that goes into the general fund. It will not be used in any other area except the general fund to keep the city operating.''
City Administrator Don Greer explained that the proposed tax-rate increase, coupled with a proposed enhancement of the pension system to encourage the early retirements of roughly 18 people, would provide "the opportunity to restructure the city with the goal in mind to reduce our operating expenses, our personnel, without having have to lay people off, and the net sum of these two events, in my estimation, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $750,000 to $800,000 annually.''
Greer further noted that reductions totaling roughly $1.2 million are needed "to eventually make some impact on our continuous borrowing. We are going to continue to borrow money on the line of credit. I don't see an end to that.''
Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding later said, "A big bone of contention with the police building is that it was 'rammed down the throats of the voters,' and I feel like this has been, I mean we just got this on Friday and we've had no time to talk to our constituents. It appears to me that this should have been a work session a month or so ago.''
Robinson interjected, "Well, it's impossible to have done that Aldermen Breeding ... because the mere fact that after the election it was told to me that if within the next month that something had to be done in order to generate funds by Aug. 2 or it would be 2007 before we would be able to get any funding from any kind of a tax increase. The last thing I wanted to do is come aboard as the mayor and then turn around and ask the people who just turned down a bond issue to add money to it. But the people that I've talked to in the community, many of them do not like taxes at all, neither do I. However, if they want to maintain their services, they're going to have to help us in the manner of a tax increase without putting a long-term debt on the city.
"And that's what I think we can do here with this two-step process. It may not rectify the whole problem, but it will stabilize our — and I'm not saying it will pay off our debt, but it will definitely stabilize us so that we can continue to provide the services that the people of Crestwood expect. And that's the reason why we're trying to do it and if it wasn't for the fact that we had to have something in by 5 o'clock tomorrow afternoon to the election board, we would not even be here, I assure you, tonight,'' he said.
Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel later said, "I can go along with a 15-cent property tax at this time because the money is needed. I'd prefer to see the property tax as part of a total financial plan as others have already said. But I'm willing to go with a 15-cent property tax because I can see that it would be a component of a long-term plan in any event ...
"I do not agree that the property-tax increase should be earmarked specifically both for the purpose of funding police and fire pension obligations,'' he said, adding, "That puts total restriction on how the funds of this tax will be used and it does this forever ...''
After further discussion, Trueblood said, "... All this is fine for 2006 if we have this on the ballot and the voters approve it. But you know what? It still doesn't solve what I think is the current problem between now and the end of the year and we need to address that. And we should have started addressing this shortly after the last election ... The first work session should have been on this instead of what it was on if I may speak so boldly and so frankly. I still want to know what we're going to do the rest of this year and I haven't heard anybody address that yet.
"We're going to ask the voters to take care of 2006. How are we going to show that we can take care of 2005? Right now I don't see that ... I don't see at this time any other possible way of doing things except to seriously look at cutting fire by one fire truck. It would save us eight employees, $300,000 between July and through the (end of the) year. Then we could go into 2006 and look seriously at what methods we wanted to use to increase revenues, at least we have that time between now and 2006 without a tax increase. I'm not — I'm just convinced the citizens of this city will not support a tax increase. They made it very clear,'' he said.
Robinson said, "Well, I'd just like to say this that you may be concentrating on the Fire Department, but I can concentrate on other areas that we can cut that will save — we will cut less and we will ...''
Trueblood interjected, "Where's your plan, sir?''
Robinson said, "I said — I said we've got other areas. We've got areas such as department heads. We've got some people in our computer areas that can be cut. We've got a lot of other areas we can cut before we get to the Fire Department. It seems like some people only want to concentrate on our lifeline instead of the people who do the work. I don't want any of these people cut and that's the reason why I would like for us to support a tax issue ...''
When the ordinance was considered, Maddox moved for a second reading and Trueblood cast the first vote, a "no'' vote, which killed consideration of the measure.