By Jenny Johnson –
City Council has decided to not yet ask residents to support a 5-mill property tax levy in November. Because of the approximately $500,000 deficit the city is facing, council had been debating the tax increase for residents to help fund a 345 millage to offset police and firefighter retirement costs.
A similar millage failed in November 2013 and some council members felt it wasn’t the right time to approach residents again.
Councilman John Rhaesa said, “ I am concerned about the climate of trying to do this at this time. If it fails in November, is it three years that we have to wait (until it goes on the ballot again)?”
City Manager Joseph Merucci said, “It will be two years from election time.”
If the millage was put on the November ballot and was not approved, it could not be put back on, as the same questions, until 2017.
Councilwoman Susan Rowe said, “We don’t have the time to prepare a decent campaign. I don’t think it would pass. We need committee involvement and we should start now but not put it on the November ballot.”
Councilman Albert Damitio said, “We have had several study sessions with this year’s budget and have not come up with a balanced budget. I just want each of the council people to look at themselves and ask how are you going to cut it so it is balanced. If you aren’t going to ask residents where are you going to cut?”
Even if this millage did pass the city would not immediately get the money.
It would not go into effect until the July 2015 tax roll for the 2015-16 budget. This would not help the immediate budget deficit the city is facing.
“We will balance the budget for this year but there will be nothing left for next year,” Mayor Al Haidous said. “There will be no revenue coming. We will be on a cliff. If we knew money was coming in July, there would be a cushion for the future.”
If we try to just push something through and don’t believe it will pass, that is insanity,” Rhaesa said.
Councilman Skip Monit said, “I do believe we have enough time but we can’t waste time. But we have to be united and moving as one at the get go. We can’t be hedging our bets. Without this millage this is going to be a different city.”
“It is a painful issue but is it good for the city- yes,” said Haidous. “I am one vote and I always cast my vote in my heart by what is right for this community. We need to debate this issue very seriously. The future of the city depends on it.”
Haidous added, “If we can’t go with a unanimous vote then it is a waste of time. If it is not a unanimous vote then I recommend we table the issue.”
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Hawley made a motion to table the proposal. Councilman David James seconded it.
Wayne resident Ron Roberts addressed the council. He said, “We are waiting for you to step up to the plate and save the city. You are not making the decisions we need to see you make. For five years you haven’t really done anything. We are on the brink of bankruptcy because of the decisions that were made up there and you still aren’t willing to make the tough hard decisions.”