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Grandview voters will have a say in whether or not they want to pay higher private utility taxes

GRANDVIEW - Government entities at every level are trying to come up with new revenue, and the city of Grandview is no exception.

During budget discussions held late last year, the Grandview City Council discussed the possibility of placing a private utility tax on the Feb. 12, 2013 special election ballot.

The council decided that the timeline was too tight and it wants more involvement from citizens.

At the time of the discussions, a 1.5 percent increase was popular among the council members, but last night the council held a study session to further discuss that rate, as well as when to place the issue on the ballot.

Mayor Norm Childress said the city doesn't wish to raise taxes, but "...times have been tough and revenues haven't been keeping up with expenditures."

For the past 10 years the council has made several cuts to the budget, including reduced staffing levels through attrition.

Those cuts, some council members believe, have not been noticed by the citizens.

"A private utility tax proposal gives the citizens an opportunity to decide how to best meet the demands of the city budget," Childress said last night.

The most recent changes made as a result of cutting the city's budget for 2013 included moving former Parks and Recreation Department Deputy Director Gretchen Chronis to city hall, where she works as part of its clerical staff.

A police officer position was cut from the police department budget and the department is operating with just one detective.

City Administrator Cus Arteaga and the council members don't believe there are many more cuts that can be made in the future. They believe further staff reductions will lead to reduced services.

Arteaga said that leads to a decision on whether or not the city will pursue a private utility tax.

The consensus of the city council was that the city will ask voters to approve a 2 percent private utility tax.

That would increase the city's private utility tax rate from 6 to 8 percent, or $8 per $100 spent on utility bills like cable, internet and phone services.

The city anticipates approximately $300,000 would be added to its revenues as a result of an increase in the private utility tax.

The city's challenge is that the voters must be willing to pay the additional tax.

The Grandview City Council knows it must have its citizens behind the proposal to gain voter approval.

As a result, Childress plans to have several public meetings on the matter.

He said he wants the voters to be well-informed.

Soon-to-retire Treasurer John Myers said the city is currently in good shape, but he believes 2012 was an exceptional year.

The city had estimated its revenue lower than what it actually took in. The expenditures were estimated at about $394,000 higher than was actually spent.

"We ended (2012) in a better position than initially budgeted," said Myers.

He said not every year will be as good.

"The boat is floating a little higher in the lake, but it's still leaking," said Myers.

He said the police department's budget, for example, is very vulnerable.

If a major crime takes place in the city of Grandview, Myers said, the police department's budget might be compromised due to overtime costs associated with investigating that crime.

Police Chief Dave Charvet said jail costs could also jeopardize his budget.

He spoke to the council members about the impact of having just one detective on staff, rather than two.

Charvet said the one detective "...is swamped."

The focus of that detective will be on "people crimes," which include assaults, shootings and murders.

When the department had two detectives, said Charvet, the other detective investigated property crimes, including burglaries and thefts.

He said the one detective will investigate property crimes with the assistance of patrol officers, but will be unable to do so on a priority basis.

Adjusting to the staffing changes to his department, also, is Parks and Recreation Director Mike Carpenter.

He said the loss of a full-time employee requires creativity in his department.

There have been volunteers, community partners and Grandview High School students willing to help keep some of the programs running.

Volunteers are helping with the Bingo program, Cal Ripken organizers will be assisting with the t-ball program and for their senior projects a couple of high school students are helping with the annual Parade of Hearts dance for senior citizens and the Frenzy Friday program for middle school students.

Carpenter said there will soon be an added challenge to management of his department when the Grandview Municipal Pool opens and reservations for the city's parks are made.

"Things might look a little different," he said.

Grandview Fire Chief Pat Mason did not have any staffing cuts in his budget this year.

However, he was asked how additional funding might help his department.

Mason said he would like to have a training officer on staff to better serve his personnel.

"Our situation is kinda like the boat...we're holding our own," he said, but noted a training officer would help his department because the volunteers could receive better quality training in a timely manner. That officer could also help with recruitment efforts.

There are currently 31 volunteer firefighters and six recruits working for the Grandview Fire Department.

After some more discussion the Grandview City Council decided it would like to place the private utility tax proposal of 2 percent on the Aug. 6, 2013 primary election ballot.

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