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Voters say no to utility tax hike

GRANDVIEW - Last night voters here turned down a city referendum seeking a hike in utility taxes from 6 percent to 7.5 percent.

If approved, the measure would have resulted in an additional $4.50 in monthly utility taxes for residents, generating $245,000 in new revenues to help fund basic services.

The Tuesday special election saw Grandview voters reject the proposal by a 60 to 40 percent margin, 570 to 377 as of the latest vote count.

Scott Staples is Grandview's city administrator and he says the result wasn't completely unexpected.

"In many ways I was not particularly surprised," he said. "The economy is in tough shape right now, and when people have to go to the pump it's an aggravating reminder."

Staples said the city's next step is a special council meeting tomorrow, Thursday, at 4 p.m. in the city council chambers. Council will discuss the referendum results and provide direction. Staples says he needs to know sooner rather than later which services may be cut as a result of the referendum's failure.

"We need to get some direction from council as to whether they eliminate some city services now," Staples said. "The longer we wait, the more challenging it will be."

If the pool program needs to be eliminated this summer, for example, Staples said he needs to know soon before employee paperwork is signed.

Speaking of employees, Staples suggested there could be layoffs. That in turn means a cut in services.

"You can't have programs without people," Staples said. "It's going to be challenging."

The city has taken efforts to cut costs, Staples notes, with an insurance program change and starting next year requiring city employees to pay a portion of their health insurance benefits.

That's still far too little, he says, to make up for the potential income lost in Tuesday's referendum vote.

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