Published Thursday, August 27, 2009
By Clayton Woullard
Federal Heights City Council’s meeting Tuesday night featured a bit of back and forth. And some confusion.
The council discussed a resolution in support of the measure it put on the ballot last week that proposes a 4 percent admissions tax on all entertainment venues in the city. The council will vote on the resolution at its next meeting on Tuesday.
“It’s basically the justification for bringing it before the voters,” city manager Dave Blanchard said, adding that the resolution would serve as talking points when speaking with the public about why the measure is necessary.
In contention were three paragraphs in the resolution. One discussed explaining that without the estimated $500,00 in revenue from the new tax, the city will be unable to adequately meet its infrastructure needs. The discussion was on whether to list as examples the paving of streets and repair and replacement of curbs and gutters.
Council member Scott Rinkenberger suggested council place something more substantial than curbs and gutters. Blanchard pointed out that his staff had researched it and discovered curbs and gutters were one of the main city improvements under the general fund, where the revenue raised would go. Council member Dick Hutchinson said he believes the council should be specific as to where the money would be going.
“I think it’s very important we bring out what we’re going to use this money for to improve our services,” Hutchinson said.
At one point in the discussion Hutchinson suggested condensing the resolution down to a few paragraphs.
“This old country boy doesn’t understand all this stuff,” he said.
Council member Michael Cieszlak pointed out that the resolution is already condensed enough.
“I feel that everything here is well put together. It’s concise. It’s simple,” he said.
Suggestions for how to rephrase the paragraph about city improvements went back and forth; council member Dale Sparks suggested the wording be changed to “paving and repair of city streets.” Rinkenberger suggested “upkeep of city streets,” there was discussion of adding infrastructure until Hutchinson suggested most people don’t know what infrastructure means, and finally “maintenance of city streets and facilities,” which the council rested on. However Sparks objected to the use of facilities as most residents do not use city facilities, he said.
Sparks also pointed out that the council should not go around talking to people about what the revenue will be paid for beyond what’s in the resolution.
“It’s very important we don’t make any promises other than what we talk about,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Richard Steele made a note that this admissions tax is a long-term thing and could be around for another 20 to 30 years. Mayor Joyce Thomas shot that down saying the council can’t predict the future.
“You can’t make any promises,” she said. “Voters can come back and say, ‘We don’t want this tax,'” adding that they can’t even promise the tax will bring in $500,000 in its first year.
The other resolution change was to two of the paragraphs that discussed how other cities use the admissions tax, something Blanchard pointed out his staff researched. After some discussion, council member Tanya Ishikawa proposed condensing the two paragraphs into one reading, in part, “admission taxes comparable to this proposed tax are commonly used by local municipalities to generate revenue for operating expenses.”
“This is something that’s truly an offset. So we’re looking at this as a way to raise revenue that other cities are commonly using. If you’re in a resort area it’s just an automatic,” Blanchard said.
The admissions tax measure will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot. Blanchard warned in the meeting that if the measure does not pass there will likely be a reduction in services.
He said after the meeting that he felt ultimately residents would see the tax as reasonable.
“If you don’t want to pay the tax, don’t go (to entertainment venues),” he said. If you can afford to go to an amusement or entertainment venue then the tax is not a burden because you have the money.”
He added that he felt the residents would see the purpose of the tax.
“This is going to be citizens recognizing that we need the revenue and this is the fairest way to do it without impacting those who can afford it the least,” he said.