Crestwood voters eye three ballot measures in Tuesday's election
November 02, 2005 - Crestwood voters next week will consider three propositions that could generate nearly $300,000 annually for the financially strapped city.
In the Tuesday, Nov. 8, election, voters will decide whether in-creases are needed in the city's merchant license fee and the city's tax on utility gross receipts. The three propositions are:
• Proposition R that seeks to increase the city's merchant li-cense fee to $1.25 per $1,000 of gross receipts from the current rate of $1 per $1,000 of gross receipts.
• Proposition S that seeks to increase the city's tax rate on gross receipts derived from utilities provided to commercial subscribers as follows — to 7 percent from 6 percent for water, to 7 percent from 3 percent for cable television, to 7 percent from 5.7 percent for electricity and to 7 percent from 6 percent for gas.
• Proposition T that seeks to increase the city's tax rate on gross receipts derived from utilities provided to residential subscribers as follows — to 6 percent from 3 percent for cable television and to 6 percent from 5.7 percent for electricity.
Though the ballot language states the tax rates on gross receipts derived from utilities for cable television will increase to 7 percent for commercial subscribers and 6 percent for residential subscribers, the actual increases will be capped at 5 percent, if approved by voters, because of Fed-eral Communications Commission regulations.
If voters approve the increase in the merchant license fee, that would generate roughly $149,000, while the increases in the tax rates for utility gross receipts would generate about $145,000, according to city officials.
"It's one of the things that we're trying to do to get the city's finances leveled out,'' Mayor Roy Robinson said about the ballot measures voters will consider Tuesday. "It doesn't resolve anything and we don't want to put the recovery on the business community, but in fairness I think what we're doing is trying to level it out.''
All of the proposed increases, if approved, would bring the city in line with the rates charged by neighboring cities, according to Robinson.
When aldermen voted in August to place the measures on the ballot, board Presi-dent Tim Trueblood of Ward 2 made a motion to amend the ordinance placing the merchant license fee increase on the ballot to $1.50 per $1,000 of gross receipts, but the proposal was defeated.
The propositions to increase the tax rates for utility gross receipts would raise the rates to the median of area cities, Robin-son told the Call Friday, noting, "We're probably about the lowest on some of those items and we're just coming up to par with them ... It's unfortunate. We don't want to do this, but we're trying to bring our tax (rates) at least to the same level of our surrounding communities and I just don't feel that it's a major blow to the business community. No matter where they would go, they'd probably be paying either that or more.''
The ballot measures are not a panacea for the city's financial problems, according to the mayor.
"It doesn't fix the deal, but with the (personnel) cuts we've made and that (revenue), that will help us refrain from using borrowed money, our line of credit. I'm not saying we won't have to use it because I really don't know. But it does help in that manner and most certainly we're going to have to look at something (else),'' he said.
The Board of Aldermen is considering other measures to help solve the city's financial woes, including a possible bond issue or tax-rate increase. At the Oct. 25 board meeting, President Tim Trueblood of Ward 2 raised the possibility of placing two measures on the April ballot — a general obligation bond issue and an increase in the property tax rate.
Robinson, however, is not enthusiastic about placing two tax measures on the April ballot.
"I'm not in agreement with putting two different taxes on a ballot, but we have to sit down and talk about it and get it worked out — what is best for us to be able to start paying our line of credit off. I would hope that we could start doing that after next year,'' he said.
"This will help us through 2006 and then if the citizens will recognize that the only way we're going to get out of debt is some type of increase in taxes — there is no other option. If they want their city back in the finance arena where we're — I said the other night, pay as you go. I do believe in pay as you go, but I also recognize with this kind of debt you cannot ... We're in way over our heads and if we start cutting any more in our city, what we've done is we're not taking care of our citizens,'' Rob-inson added.
During his Oct. 20 town-hall meeting, Robinson said he didn't realize the gravity of the city's financial problems until after he was elected mayor. On Friday, he reiterated that, saying, "Like I said, I have a different outlook on how bad this city was in debt than when I came in because I did not expect it to be at this level. But it's here and we've got to take care of it. That's the reason why we're making these requests and we're trying to get our business community going again.''
Not all residents are supporting the propositions on Tuesday's ballot.
During the Oct. 25 board meeting, resident Bob Bahn said, "... Personally, and I hope I can get enough people, I'm going to vote against every tax increase you put out until I see a savings program and people working to save money. It's easy to tax and it's not that difficult to put a savings program in. You can put one in in 30 minutes and you probably could save 20 percent of what was spent just by watching what you're doing ...''
He later added, "Anyway, I say that you shouldn't be taxing — even this little business tax you're taking about. How does that help bring more business into this area? But anyway, I'm just saying until I see that we really need the money and that all of you know ... how much money we got and we're not spending more than we have ... We borrowed a million. Now we're going to borrow $3 million. That's like you spend yourself and borrow money to get out of debt. You can't do that.
"After we did find out that we were in trouble, we moved too slow. We haven't got all the employees cut off yet and I don't know why. When you're in trouble, you take care of it. We haven't moved at all on the formalized savings program. So as far as I'm concerned, what we did move on has taken us over a year, which should have taken us a couple of months. If you got too many people, you got too many people. You get rid off them. Every month you keep them, it cost you more ...,'' Bahn said.
Robinson, however, encourages residents to vote for the three propositions on Tues-day's ballot.
"We're not trying to make money. We're just trying to keep the city afloat,'' he said.