July 4th, 2008 by admin
The Port Hueneme City Council is considering putting a tax measure on the general election ballot in November to address a budget deficit that’s expected to climb. But what type of tax and how much of an increase will depend on the recommendation of a taxation consultant. "We need to hire a consultant to help settle the question of what is the most acceptable tax venue to the public," said Port Hueneme City Manager David Norman. On Wednesday night, the council appointed Mayor Pro Tem Toni Young and Councilman Murray Rosenbluth to begin interviewing taxation consultants, with the intention of hiring one by February. The consultant will determine the feasibility of a tax increase, as well as conduct an analysis of likely voters and their opinions on the measure. If it makes the ballot and is approved by voters, the tax increase would begin in 2009. The marketing and selling of a tax increase improves the likelihood of voter approval, Norman said. "This is a long-term financing vehicle to balance the general fund and pay for new needs," he said. "That’s not something you want to leave up to luck." A tax increase is necessary, council members said, because of a $581,167 deficit that is expected to grow to $1.3 million by 2011-12 without new sources of revenue or significant cuts in services. "We are not going to give up on decreasing spending. But we are looking at the other side of the coin to increase revenues," Rosenbluth said. "The longer it is delayed, the more we go into deficit and the harder it is to catch up." The council reviewed a $45.4 million annual budget with a $1.7 million shortfall in June. The council gave Norman a "sharp knife" and told him to start cutting, Rosenbluth said. An additional $1 million in savings was identified, but there was a leftover deficit. The council’s goal now is to balance the budget by 2009. But it won’t be easy in a city with no auto malls or major shopping centers to help generate sales tax revenue. Sales taxes made up 7 percent of the city’s general fund revenue, the lowest percentage for any city in Ventura County. Property taxes were 11 percent of the general fund for fiscal year 2004-05, the latest data available. Meanwhile, the cost of running the city continues to climb. "Every year employees cost a little more. Services cost a little more. And we don’t get increases in revenue," Young said. "It (a tax increase) is the only move we have. We don’t have any choice." Voters last approved a utility tax in 1994. "However, that tax has not grown at the same rate as the service levels have grown in the city," Norman said. Council members don’t believe that Port Hueneme’s 22,347 residents would consider cutting services an option. "We don’t want Port Hueneme to be a poor Third World city with no city rec services and limited public works," Rosenbluth said. "We are proud of our city. We want to keep it that way. And I think the people want to keep it that way." http://www.venturacountystar.com/news/2007/dec/07/port-hueneme-to-hire-taxation-consultant.