01/27/2010 Town Council Meeting Summary

By Sarah Crawford

The meeting lasted almost 6 hours. I will only summarize what I found interesting or relevant to our group.

The Congress of Neighborhoods discussed their upcoming meeting on Thurs. Jan. 28 and officially invited the Mayor, Town Council Members and the public to attend. There will be a light dinner, some socializing and then work on 6 subcommittees that will help develop the city plan for the next 10 years that will be voted on in 2011. (Although the planning committee has already been working on this for over a year and will work for another year on it, public input is required. Groups will meet again 5 or 6 more times. Anyone who can attend, please do!)

Next, there was some discussion on the ¼ cent sales tax going on the ballot:

– Is a publicity pamphlet about the proposed tax required? Yes. Even if it is voted on in November, there would need to be separate pamphlet for this tax.

– Because of a state freeze on the Construction Sales tax rate, we would only get $6.7 million in new revenue instead of the estimated $7.3 million.

– If there is extra tax revenue from the increased sales tax rate that is supposed to be dedicated to public safety, can they use it other places? No real clear answer to this question.

– If this vote passes can the council decide at a later date to repeal the increase or are their hands tied because voters approved it and not them? Les- (I think) suggested that they can get around this problem by manipulating the previous 1.5% sales tax increase that the council did adopt earlier. It’s kind of going around the problem because they don’t know how this will work legally. A lot of unanswered questions

– According to Susan (legal) there is no specific language in the law on how to designate a tax in a certain area. There have been court cases arguing both sides it seems. She thinks that a tax voted on by the people would be harder for them to move, change or eliminate without another vote by the people.

– Someone said we are still 10 years from being at build out and will still need an increased amount of money for public safety every year because population and cost of services will go up.

– Linda put up a slide showing how even with the sales tax increase added we will be just like all the other cities in comparison, only Scottsdale would be lower. Six communities have a dedicated sales tax for certain things.

– Can a sunset be put into the sales tax? Linda wondered if that would bring Steve Urie on board. He wasn’t interested in that but thinks a November election is the answer because then we have more time. He wants them to go through all the budget recommendations still. “Why vote on it if we don’t need it?”

– George is still compiling some pro’s and con’s about this (not sure exactly what) but not ready yet.

– Jenn asked why are we making it a public safety tax. Public safety is always a first priority and it will get funded first. Why is it put out there as though it’s the clincher. Need MORE flexibility as to where the money goes, not less! Giving it to a public safety fund is too restrictive, ear marking money, a shell game. Need to be more honest about what is going on, would like clarification.

– Crozier said to look at state budget and worried about state taking away state shared revenues and thinks we need this as a back-up plan (Jenn pointed out to me later that the state revenues are $42 million and if we lose them this $6 million isn’t going to be any help)

– Linda says fire and safety is 63% of the budget and she is not hurrying, it has been a YEAR! While she respects Jenn’s view, it is not the view of the whole community, just a part of the community but not all. Some of us (meaning Linda and her people but not Jenn) see public safety as a priority. People DESERVE a right to weigh in, a collective voice on what is their priority. Uses fact that Jenn voted to remove the P.O. officers from the school as “proof” that she doesn’t care about safety.

– Jenn came back and said, my priority is public safety, it’s my top priority and you misrepresented me! Her vote on the officers was to let the schools pay for them if they wanted them and does not affect public safety.

– If they have a May 18 election the earliest $ would actually start coming in would be Sept. first because of certain rules and what not.

– They defined “Public Safety” as police, fire, courts and prosecutors. (took out animal control)

Citizens spoke

– Eddie Cook (sec. of LD22) said we don’t have the $ for a special election, and the Council should have the courage to make the tough choices, you already had the citizens voice. Save $, not spend. Stand by what you vote for.

– Several pro-tax people said “congrats on all your hard work- you are so wonderful- this election is long overdue- thanks!

– Pat Krueger- “Democracy is not free!” (Please note: we are not a democracy. We are a democratic federal republic.) Willing to put forth a vote, feel like we have the right to come before them and give them our opinions.

– Sarah Crawford said there are a lot more than just a handful of people that agree with Jenn Daniels about lower taxes. The council already has heard from the public, we had 9 weeks of committee meetings and a steering committee that did NOT recommend the sales tax increase, yet here we are still talking about it! We have already spoken. But if it does go to a vote, It is disingenuous to label this as a “public safety tax” because this makes it sound as if there have been cuts to every program and there is still not enough money left over to fund police and fire without this tax increase. That those places will not survive even though we all agree that they are a “top priority” and get the first money that comes in, not the last. Therefore, they should call it the “budget shortfall tax” or the “Economic downturn tax” or the “Parks and recreation tax.” It seems as though they are labeling it a certain way because they want to see a certain outcome. (It seems that this Council has the kind of spite that if the tax doesn’t pass, the council will make big 15% cuts in police and fire and shut down things like the rec. center, things that will hurt people and upset them the most. This will be done to make the low-tax people look heartless even though there are plenty of places to cut the $ in the budget that won’t enrage people.)

– Shane Stapley said you don’t need to be a finance major to balance a budget. He had a 50% salary cut and now he is unemployed, but had set some aside for times like these. The city has $19 million it could use, can loan money from one bucket to another. 8 years ago Mayor Berman had a solution. John Sentz has a lot of finance experience, surely he can peel back the covers and find that the $ is there. Oh, and Shane said that the word “disingenuous” is a word that nice people use when they really mean you are lying! Thanks Shane!

Council Response

– The new word of the night was “disingenuous.” Dave Crozier twisted what I said and tried to act like we were the ones being that way. That essential services need to be funded but we could suspend some programs for a while, shut down, limit or curtail even. He said the citizens of Gilbert were too smart to be tricked by smoke and mirrors (referring to how they label the tax a public safety tax)

– More questions about the flexibility of the tax designation, how to end it and where any extra goes- no more answers.

– Linda said the police, fire and courts were asked to cut 15% from their budgets (hint hint)

– Jenn says she supports democracy and letting people have a say but she said there are 75 ideas brought forth that still need to be addressed, that she can’t tell the people we are in a crisis when we are not. There is a substantial cost to this and don’t need to go and divide the people even further.

– Urie says he goes to his clients to get their opinions and then emails them the next day what he thinks they said and if they are in sync, he goes with it. Voters in Gilbert are entitled to input. Should have initiated some of the budget cuts already but wait till Nov. for election and see if the budget cuts are working.

– Sentz said reach out, be fair, what a great country, still can be friends, still postpone till Nov.

– Crozier said be relentless, cut budget, but keep vote on the agenda just in case, hedge all bets.

– Les hesitates to use the word “disingenuous” looks at me and laughs, but uses it anyway. Haha!

They moved to Approve the Language on how to present it on the ballot on May 18- Approved, 4 -3 with Lewis, Daniels and Urie against. (Public Safety Tax)

Discussed Renters Tax- whether to enact it right now with a vote by the council or put it on the ballot. Susan said legally they can’t or shouldn’t adopt a tax then rescind a tax, only to adopt the same exact tax again. Looks bad. Has to be more time or change the language substantially.

Moved to put the Rental Tax on the ballot- Failed- 5-2 Urie and Presmyk voting for.

No discussion was had about the Use Tax. Jenn thinks that there is not enough time left to get the wording together, approved and on the ballot so it probably is going down!

The Solid Waste department put on a great presentation on how they want to save the town $ by switching to a 5 day pick-up schedule instead of 6 (not collecting on Saturdays) Louis Anderson presented and did a great job! Go garbage!! Council voted to approve 7-0

Voted 6-1 (Daniels against) to approve the League of Women voters to use the Town facilities for free for a forum.