Taxes or budget cuts?

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Interspersed with the ongoing discussion surrounding the adoption, or non-adoption of the Avalon fiscal year budget, the finance team presented to the Council some revenue generation options, otherwise known as taxes.

Mayor Anni Marshall expressed her concern about all of the city’s capital improvement projects, saying there “could be no money left” in the sewer fund by the end of the year and perhaps we “should tackle that a bit sooner.”

According to city finance officials, the city does have the following options:

• .25 percent increase would generate approximately $250,000 per year (voter approval required)

• Admissions Tax increase of 0.4 percent – 0.8 percent increase would generate $65-130,000 annually, voter approval required

• Cross channel surcharge of $1 each-way would generate $1.35 million per year for harbor related projects (voter approval not required)

• TOT increase to 14 percent (no amount given)

• Electric utilities tax of 3 percent of utility bills would generate between $65-85,000 per year

There was some discussion about a need to raise an additional $2 million per year to spend on harbor related projects, acknowledging that most of the projects in the worst need of funding are harbor related.

The discussion of new revenue at one point sent council member Pam Albers into a tirade, saying she felt like the citizens of Avalon “are overburdened” with taxes and she claimed that fully half of the city’s existing revenue went to pay for salaries and benefits of city workers.

“That’s the way of the world,” said Marshall.

Albers also said it was false economy to think that a cross channel fee would generate more money, saying ultimately, it could end up in a reduction of people coming to the island. “People have to come” for the cross-channel tax to generate revenue.

The former city attorney said the city’s staff had grown to 82 full-time equivalent employees in recent years and she suggested the work can be done with fewer employees.

“Well then,” said an obviously frustrated mayor, “do we want an across the board cut of 10 percent in salaries?”

Alarm bells immediately went off as the City Council, or city staff, wanted no part of that suggestion.

Albers suggested a hiring freeze or other measures to rein in expenses rather than asking citizens or visitor’s pay more.

Interim city manager Denise Radde suggested there are “no needless positions” and she said was trying to fill a number of vacant positions. “There is a greater demand,” she suggested.

Point made, the council took on action nor entered into serious discussion about either a salary cut or hiring freeze for the moment.

They also did not discuss any of the revenue measures but did agree that if decide to look at any of the alternatives, they will take the time to investigate and speak to all affected parties well in advance.

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