Grandview citizens meet to discuss funding issues


Grandview Mayor Norm Childress (top center) discusses ways to raise revenues to pay for city services, with Grandview residents last night.

GRANDVIEW - Increasing property and utility taxes, and raising vehicle license fees are all things several Grandview residents are in favor of to pay for city services for 2009 and 2010.

Calling it a public outreach, the Grandview City Council and the city's department heads hosted a forum last night (Thursday) to get input from Grandview residents about how to pay for city services for the next two years.

Grandview Mayor Norm Childress told approximately 40 citizens who showed up that the purpose of last night's meeting was to provide them with information on how city tax dollars are spent.

"We are asking you to assist us in making choices about how to raise additional tax revenue, or in the alternative, which current services should be eliminated, changed or reduced," Childress said.

He said each year it's getting tougher and tougher to pay for the services people want.

"What Grandview is going through is not unique to Grandview," Scott Staples, city administrator for Grandview, said.

Staples said if people look around at what's happening to other cities in the valley, they are facing the same challenges.

Why? Two reasons, according to Staples.

One is I-695 that passed in 1999. This was the initiative that lowered vehicle license fees to $30.

"I don't think most people realized that the money went from you, to Olympia, then back to Grandview where it paid for fire, police and other services," Staples explained.

Another reason for the tight checkbook is I-747, which limited city governments to just a 1 percent increase in property taxes each year.

"The cost of providing services in not going up by 1 percent," Staples noted.

He estimated Grandview has lost $4 million in revenue in the past eight years.

The city raised utility taxes and cut a position at the library to balance the 2008 budget.

How much money does Grandview need to generate to pay for services for the next two years? Stapes said an additional $320,000.

Those in attendance at last night's meeting split into groups with a city council member and looked at ways to raise the money.

Options were to raise taxes on private and public utilities, or cut services. A 1 percent raise on private utilities would generate about $160,000. The same increase on public utilities would generate an additional $40,000.

Although the city needs $320,000 more in revenues in its current expense fund, other taxes could be raised to pay for other services.

For instance, if Grandview residents wanted to improve city streets, they could vote to raise vehicle license fees up to $100. The council can only raise fees by $20. A $20 raise in fees would generate $180,000 in funds that could then be used for street repairs.

After meeting in groups for 30 minutes, a spokesperson for the groups relayed the ideas to every one else.

All groups were in favor of raising property and utility taxes. Raising animal permit fees was also suggested and implementing a permit to let off fireworks during the Fourth of July was also thrown out for discussion.

One group suggested cutting graffiti removal services and instead turning over the duties to juveniles who get in trouble at school or with the law. Freezing all new hires and salaries was another option.

The mayor said he was pleased with the way things went at last night's meeting.

"I sat with five citizens and we communicated openly and freely," he said. "I got the feeling they were glad to be included in the process."

The city will host two more meetings to get input from the public. A meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 28, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Carl L. Stevens Senior Center in Grandview. The last meeting will be held the same day from 6:30 to 8 p.m.


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