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Additional utility tax, pool closure being considered by Grandview Council

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Grandview City Attorney Quinn Plant of Menke Jackson Beyer Ehlis & Harper LLP tells the council members Grandview does not have in place a contract for conflict counsel to cover indigent defense services. The council last night approved a contract at the rate of $110 per case. Providing the services will be Sunnyside's Newhouse Law, Garrison Law Offices and the Law Office of Dan Peterson.

GRANDVIEW - The Grandview City Council, after receiving the news that the Grandview School District has made a $250,000 offer on the former Bleyhl Community Library building and proceeding to accept the offer, decided last night that it will hold a special meeting regarding the possibility of proposing a utility tax and/or closing the city's municipal pool.

The special meeting, to be held at 5:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Dec. 4, will also provide the city council members an opportunity to discuss adjustments to the proposed 2013 budget, which was the subject of the Transportation Benefit District meeting and public hearing last night.

Adjustments were presented to the council by Grandview Treasurer John Myers last night.

He told the council members the city's current expense fund is in better shape than initially thought because the city's insurance premiums for Leoff 1 employees were reduced by approximately $26,000 and because the school district has made the offer on the former library building.

The current expense fund ending balance is expected to be $31,800 in 2013, rather than a shortfall of just more than $1,700.

The purchase price for the former library was already accounted for when the budget was initially proposed to the city council members.

However, Mayor Pro Tem Pam Horner believes it would be wise to propose a utility tax for voter approval.

She said the budget continues to tighten and a bond will expire. That, she said, sets the city in a good position to ask the voters to pay an approximately 1 percent utility tax.

Councilwoman Joan Souders agreed with the idea, stating she believes the taxpayers could decide on the tax that might help the city retain a police officer position and/or the deputy parks and recreation director's position.

Souders also said, "We keep making the cuts, but the people don't see the cuts...I think an empty swimming pool would make a statement."

The discussion continued with Councilman Mike Bren stating he doesn't like the idea of proposing a utility tax and if the council was to propose such a tax, he said, it should not be attached to positions within city government.

Bren said proposing the tax and telling the voters it would keep specific positions intact would "...box us in."

Explaining, he said the council would be obligated to keep the positions intact because it would be expected by voters who approve a utility tax for the sole purpose of preserving the positions.

"We have one of the higher utility taxes in the valley," said Bren.

The swimming pool closure, said Souders, "...would make a bold statement."

Councilman Harv Rodriguez said the Grandview City Council has discussed budget cuts for several years and he expressed concern over backing down from the cuts that have been proposed for 2013.

He was also concerned about placing an emphasis on retaining the deputy parks and recreation director position over a police officer position.

Councilman Jessie Palacios said he believes discussing ideas such as a utility tax and closing the pool should be held off.

"I want to see how this (proposed 2013 budget) plays out...we might be having another discussion eight months from now," he said.

Horner pointed out the fact that the city council, regardless of the ideas being suggested, will need to approve a budget.

If a utility tax is to be proposed to the voters it won't be until next year.

The council members asked Myers when revenues would be received if voters approve a utility tax and he said the city would begin receiving the revenues as early as 60 days after the election.

He told the council he also researched the possibility of collecting additional Real Estate Excise Taxes (REET) because the city is not collecting all it is entitled to.

Myers said approximately $25,000 in additional revenues could potentially be collected from real estate sales and purchases.

Horner asked if that could be imposed by the council and Myers said REET taxes can be.

Mayor Norm Childress reminded the council that the proposed $16.8 million budget is balanced and a 15 percent reserve fund remains intact.

"We have to remain focused," he said, noting ideas have been presented and it is the council's job to discuss them and come to a conclusion.

The proposed budget for the Transportation Benefit District is $197,500.

There weren't any public comments made during a hearing on the proposed budget during the Transportation Benefit District meeting, which preceded the regular council meeting.

City Administrator Cus Arteaga said projects during 2012 exceeded the expectations of the council when it formed the Transportation Benefit District. The city was able to complete approximately $2 million worth of projects during the first year of the district's existence.

Arteaga said the council believed that would have happened over the course of 10 years, but funds collected as a result of a $20 vehicle tab fee allowed the city of Grandview to leverage funds for additional transportation improvement grants.

He said $60,000 has been set aside in the proposed 2013 Transportation Benefit District for additional projects, $55,830 has been budgeted for improvements to Euclid Road and just more than $29,000 has been budgeted for the Bonnieview Road improvement project.

The Transportation Benefit District board, consisting of the Grandview City Council members, approved the proposed 2013 budget for the newly formed district presented last night.

During the council's regular meeting and hearing on the proposed 2013 budget, Mary Barrett spoke. She said she was pleased to see "cuts from the top."

Barrett said it impresses her to see department heads taking notice of budget concerns and making tough decisions.

She told the council she is also impressed with Police Chief Dave Charvet for being willing to make changes to his department.

"But, it's the wrong time to raise utility taxes," said Barrett.

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