|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Wednesday, 09 June 2010 01:00|
Facing a tight budget, the council earlier this year considered increasing the local sales tax by 1 cent. But the possible threat of residents opposing the sales tax and pulling papers to halt it was a factor in the council’s decision to look at putting the issue to the voters directly, to see if the citizens wanted a tax increase.
Councilwoman Carol German requested the matter come before the council again last week, but the town’s leaders didn’t address the matter in open session.
It wasn’t appropriate, Councilwoman Norma Garrison said, because town rules prohibit council members from bringing issues back to the table if they were on the side that didn’t prevail when a topic was first voted on.
Town Clerk Debbie Barber said this was a special case, because the residents’ initiative, which seeks to set aside new tax revenue for a new library and development of the town’s 100-plus acres of public park land, brings new information to the table that might have an effect on what the council wants to do.
When the council voted in April to possibly put the measure on the November ballot, German argued that it would be too late to help out with the current budget planning.
German said raising the sales tax would keep the town’s tax rate in line with other Verde Valley communities, towns where other people already go to shop anyway. Most of the town’s sales tax income comes from the businesses along the I-17 and State Route 260 interchange, German said, a lot of which is paid by people from out of town.
German said she would be willing to let residents try and block the tax increase if they wanted to, but the town has to do something if it wants to keep its head above water.
Since then, a group of citizens including German’s brother-in-law Charlie German have been circulating the petition for a half-cent tax increase for the benefit of the park and library.
Garrison said that the public is free to pursue any initiatives, but that should have an effect on what the Town Council has already decided.
“This initiative is none of our business,” Garrison said, noting that she was following the advice of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, a group that works on behalf of the interests of Arizona’s local governments.
Garrison said she originally thought the council was going to discuss the wording of the issue on the ballot following the council’s April decision, but once she realized the nature of the agenda item, decried the notion that if the council kept discussing things that were already decided, it would never get anything done.
Following the discussion, the council went into a closed-door session to discuss the matter with Town Attorney Bill Sims. Following the private meeting, the council voted to hold off further discussion of the matter until this week’s scheduled council meeting. The citizens’ group had until this week to collect the signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot.
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