City Council votes down property tax increase for 2009

November 11, 2008

By Jon Savelle

In these tough economic times, the City Council feels your pain. On Nov. 3, council members decided to spare you more of it by declining to raise property taxes.

During better economic conditions, the council routinely raises property taxes by 1 percent each year. But this year, council members unanimously reversed course, saying this is not the time to further squeeze the citizens.

That 1 percent is the maximum increase allowed by state law without a public vote. The amount of money it would raise is small —about $62,000 in 2009 — but over time, the revenue helps pay down the city’s debt, Deputy Finance Director Trisha Draycott told the council.

While that is helpful to the city, the council did not find it a compelling enough argument for a tax increase.

“I appreciate the idea of reducing debt,” said Council President Maureen McCarry. “But we could do that the old fashioned way, by not spending it.”

One by one, her colleagues followed suit. Councilman Joshua Schaer noted that the city already supports spending measures such as Proposition 1 (for roads and transit) and a fire station bond issue; the city also recently raised water rates.

“I don’t believe a thorough enough case has been made to me that we will enter an irreversible downward spiral” by not raising the tax, Schaer said. “In this economy, I’m done taxing people.”

Even Councilman David Kappler, who said he has always voted for the annual increase, changed his mind.

“This is going to be my first year to oppose this tax,” he said.

The council on Nov. 6 completed its deliberations on the 2009 budget, and its revisions are being printed in a revised budget document. That will be subject to one last public hearing at the Dec. 1 meeting of the council.

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