All but one member of the Centralia City Council told City Manager Lowell Crow at a budget work shop meeting Monday night that they would not support a property tax increase to begin addressing the city’s pension shortfall.
However, they were in unanimous agreement to place the half-cent sales tax back on the ballot in April. The tax is expected to generate $400,000 a year and will pay off the new fire trucks and yearly expenditure for police cars. But City Attorney Doug Grunke says the money could be used for other purposes in the general fund as well.
City Manager Lowell Crow called for a 4.95-percent increase in the property tax to address the short fall in the city’s pension funds that has been ignored since the last property tax increase. The only councilman willing to support the proposal was David Sauer.
“We’re moving funds around left and right here to try to make this budget work. Since we have not had a property tax increase for 10 years. I mean even people on social security have had some COLA adjustments. I believe the city should go with a 4.9, that would be less than half of a percent per year over the past 10 years. I realize this may not fly well with the rest of council, but I think it’s poor planning to let things like the pool and water plant and fire trucks and things like this, to be purchased but not paid for.”
Councilman Howard Jones, Spanky Smith and Andre Marshall all indicated they would not support a property tax hike. Mayor Herb Williams also said no, at least for this year.
“With the way our economy is at this present time, I just can’t see a property tax increase. I don’t think it would sit well with our citizens.”
Crow says he’ll now go back and look at some other possible reductions.
“The sales tax, I think if we can get that passed will help relief some of the pressure on the equivalent that we have to buy. We still have the pensions to address, as well as what we are going to be needing to do is probably looking at possibly another staff re-organization in the future.”
Crow says the budget, as presented at the work session was balanced. It will be brought before the city council at its next meeting for approval.