Edgewood officials passed a 3.5 percent utility tax Tuesday night that they said would close the city’s persisting budget gap.
City officials already have cut six positions from the 2010 budget to get the city’s deficit down to about $450,000, said Interim City Manager Mike Caldwell. The utility tax will bring in about $560,000 per year – enough to cover the remaining shortfall, Caldwell said.
City officials estimated the tax will amount to about $14 extra per month for the average Edgewood resident, who they said spends about $400 on combined monthly utility bills.
The Edgewood City Council approved the new utility tax by a vote of 5-2 at a meeting Tuesday night. It will end after three years if the Edgewood City Council doesn’t choose to extend it.
Citizens who spoke Tuesday were mostly supportive of the utility tax, Edgewood residents in overwhelmingly voted down a similar tax of 5 percent when it came to a public vote in 2005.
Some citizens said they think the situation is different now because the council has made substantial spending reductions this time before turning to taxation as an option. Those cuts included a wage freeze on top of the staff cuts, which will reduce Edgewood’s staff to 11 people in 2010. Three police positions will also be eliminated.
“The city has done its part to show they’re fiscally responsible,” said Edgewood resident Fred Brown. “The previous city council did not.”
Council members Donna O’Ravez and Steve Cope voted against the new tax, saying they thought the issue should be left to a vote of the citizens rather than be decided by the city council.
“We should trust the masses over seven people sitting up here when it comes to an important issue like this,” Cope said.
Should Edgewood citizens want to initiate a referendum process to repeal the tax, a group of them will have to file a petition within seven days.
At that point, they will have about 40 days to create a ballot measure title and gather supporting signatures.