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Proposals to generate revenues pitched in Grandview

GRANDVIEW - Grandview residents purchasing a new home are likely to pay additional Real Estate Excise Taxes (REET) and the city council will next Tuesday be presented with the resolution needed to impose that tax, as well as a resolution for a utility tax proposal.

The utility tax, if the Grandview City Council approves the proposal next Tuesday, will be presented to voters in February 2013.

This past Tuesday evening the city council during a special budget meeting discussed means for generating revenue and cutting costs. Four means for obtaining additional sources of revenue and two cost-cutting ideas were on the agenda.

A utility tax on electricity, natural gas, telephone and cable services; a Grandview Parks and Recreation Service Area Levy, REET taxes and the allocation of funds from the sale of the former Bleyhl Community Library were discussed as measures for generating revenue.

City Administrator Cus Arteaga presented the council members with information on each of the revenue sources. He said a utility tax of 1 percent could potentially provide the city of Grandview with $150,000, a 1.5 percent tax would amount to approximately $225,000 in revenue and a 2 percent tax could mean the city would receive $300,000 in revenues.

REET revenues for the .25 percent not being collected by the city could mean the city would receive between $20,000 and $25,000 in revenues for capital improvements.

Arteaga said a parks and recreation levy would need 60 percent voter approval and could generate more than $185,700 in revenue for parks and recreation.

The $250,000 from the sale of the former library, Arteaga told the council, could be allocated between the general fund, the capital improvement fund and the street fund. He advised the council that the allocations would leave the city's reserve fund at 13.6 percent instead of the 15 percent council set as a goal.

The council felt that reserve level was acceptable and plans to approve the allocations from the sale of the library as suggested by Arteaga at next Tuesday's regular council meeting.

Councilman Jesse Palacios said he liked the idea of allocating funds from the sale of the former library and believed additional REET funds could benefit planned street projects.

"I think our neighborhoods deserve more attention," he said.

Arteaga said the REET funding could be used to leverage additional grants and Department of Transportation funding for street projects.

When asked about how much money would be generated from the sale and purchase of property, Grandview City Treasurer John Meyer said the purchaser would pay $250 on a $100,000 sale.

Mayor Pro Tem Pam Horner changed the discussion, focusing on proposing a utility tax.

She said she believes taxpayers might be willing to pay an additional 1.5 percent tax on their utility bills for the purpose of public safety and maintaining services.

She noted taxpayers of Grandview will no longer be paying property taxes on a bond that retires at the end of 2012.

Horner said the utility tax would actually cost less for each property owner than the property tax did.

"It wouldn't hit their pocketbook as much," she said.

Meyer said a utility tax could be approximately $1.50 more on monthly utility bills.

Councilwoman Joan Souders said she liked the idea of proposing a utility tax because she believes public safety is an issue voters are willing to stand behind.

The council members discussed the merits of identifying the purpose of the utility tax for any one service and decided public safety includes law enforcement, senior services and recreation services.

That is one reason the council did not like the idea of proposing a parks and recreation levy. They believed the levy would be too specific.

Councilwoman Diana Jennings, too, believed any revenue generated should also be used to restore a police officer position.

"I know the calls for service continue to rise," she said, noting restoring the position would allow an additional patrol officer to meet the demands of the growing population.

All of the council members acknowledged that utility tax revenues would not be collected by the city until July, if the voters approved such a tax in February 2013.

As a result, it was clear to them that the revenue could be added to the 2013 budget in an amendment or it could be included in the 2014 budget.

"I don't want it to sunset," said Horner, stating allowing such a tax to sunset in the past placed the city in its current situation.

Palacios and Councilmen Harv Rodriguez and Bill Moore also believe it would benefit the city if the council sticks to the currently proposed 2013 budget.

They all said it is difficult to determine how cost-cutting measures will work until they are tried.

"There are a lot of what-ifs," said Rodriguez, stating it is important that the citizens understand the city is trying to live within its means.

Mayor Norm Childress agreed, stating, "I believe it will be obvious what's working and what's not."

He turned the discussion to the other agenda items, stating the council members had brought forth ideas of transitioning the city's library to a regional system and closing the city pool.

The council members discussed the merits of the two ideas, and decided neither option was something they wished to move forward with at this time.

Transitioning the library would mean the city loses its partnership with Yakima Valley Community College, would continue paying for its portion of the debt for the newly constructed library and loses its books.

The pool, the council members decided, provides the city with resources that are beyond revenues.

Arteaga said he had a discussion with the police chief "...who acknowledged there is a value for local youth and officers would be busier if it was closed."

Jennings said, "I'd like to see it (the pool) stay in the budget...I feel there's more value in the pool than the dollar figures."

Moore and Horner agreed, stating local businesses also benefit from the swim meets hosted in Grandview. Out of town visitors, they said, visit the local eateries.

Lifeguards, too, benefit from the pool. Horner said the summer job may be the only income lifeguards have to help them with school or to assist their families.

Souders stood by a statement she made last week, stating she believes closing the pool "...would be a bold statement."

The rest of the council agreed not to move forward with plans to close the pool.

At that point citizens were provided an opportunity to comment.

Marsha Wagner spoke up, stating she was grateful for the council's decision to leave the pool in the proposed 2013 budget.

She said she attended the meeting because she learned the pool would be on the agenda.

"The community and the pool have really been a safeguard for my family," Wagner said, stating her family moved to Grandview several years ago after living in a community that wasn't safe.

Wagner told the council members she is willing to work with Parks and Recreation Director Mike Carpenter to figure out ways to generate additional revenue for the pool.

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