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Pomona Council Faces Budget, Tax Issues on Lengthy Agenda

June 19, 1988|JEFFREY MILLER | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — City Council members, other city officials and gadflies are bracing for a marathon council meeting Monday night as the council rushes to tackle several weighty issues in its last meeting before the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1.

City Administrator A. J. Wilson, who assumed his post full time two months ago, will be seeking council approval of his proposed budget, a major capital-improvement program and a plan to reduce the city's 11% utility tax for residents.

The agenda, containing 29 items, is one of the longest in Pomona's history. Considering that council meetings with much smaller agendas have often gone past midnight, most officials expect Monday's meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m., to run later than 3 a.m.

'Can't Recall Longer Agenda'

"I've been on the City Council for five years and I cannot recall the City Council having this many items on the agenda," Councilman Mark Nymeyer said, adding that he is opposed to an all-night meeting.

"If it gets to a certain point, I'm going to ask the mayor to adjourn the meeting until the following evening," he said. "It's ridiculous for us to be sitting there until 3 or 4 in the morning. After a point, the mind can only absorb what the rear-end can put up with."

However, Councilwoman Nell Soto said the meeting should not be adjourned until the council has concluded its business.

"I am committed to serving the people, as corny as that sounds," Soto said. "If it needs to go all night long, that's what we're there for."

Budget Is Key Item

One of the key items on the agenda is Wilson's proposed 1988-89 budget, which calls for general fund expenditures of about $40.8 million, an increase of 3.6% over this fiscal year's $39.4 budget. However, the council could add $1 million for capital improvements if it adopts a plan to increase the utility tax on businesses from 11% to 14%, effective July 1.

Wilson's budget includes money for two additional traffic enforcement officers and $60,000 to turn on street lights shut off several years ago as a cost-cutting measure. The budget also requires directors of city departments to make specified reductions in their operating expenses.

After meeting with Wilson and various city department directors last month, Nymeyer, Mayor Donna Smith and Councilman E. J. (Jay) Gaulding said they are generally satisfied with the budget. But Councilman C. L. (Clay) Bryant said Wilson's budget does not cut spending sufficiently.

"Either he's letting staff call the shots or he's got an idea that we've got a bottomless pocketbook," Bryant said, adding that he does not think Wilson has responded adequately to suggestions made by council members in budget meetings.

Bryant said he will not vote to approve the budget until his concerns are addressed and, if necessary, will move to postpone a vote on the spending plan to allow additional meetings with Wilson.

Tax Change Asked

The council also will be asked to decide between two methods of reducing the 11% residential utility tax by increasing the utility tax paid by businesses. Both proposals call for the residential tax to be lowered to 10% next Jan. 1 and to 9% on Jan. 1, 1990.

Under one plan, the business tax would be raised to 11.5% on July 1 and to 12% on July 1, 1989. The cap on the amount of utility tax large industries may be required to pay annually would be raised from the current $36,000 to $54,000 on July 1 and to $72,000 a year later.

The alternative proposal, which would provide $1 million for capital improvements in addition to offsetting the reduced residential tax, would raise the utility tax for businesses to 14%, effective July 1.

The tax would be lowered to 13.5% next year and to 12% the following year. The annual cap for large businesses would be increased to $72,000 on July 1 and lowered by $5,000 a year in 1989 and 1990.

Undecided on 2nd Plan

Most council members contacted last week said they knew little or nothing about the latter proposal. City budget officer Dayle Keller said the second alternative was devised after meetings with business leaders.

Nymeyer said he had mixed feelings about cutting the tax for residential utility customers at the expense of the city's businesses.

"In manipulating the utility tax formula, we have relieved the homeowners, which is great, (but) we've taken the burden and placed it on the business community, which I don't care for myself."

Soto agreed, saying the tax increase may be an unfair imposition on small business owners. "They have to make a living and they can't always be the ones who are sought out to make a sacrifice."

Gaulding said he objected to a provision to exempt families earning less than $15,000 a year from paying the tax.

Says Exempts Too Many

"That would cover a third of the housing units in Pomona," Gaulding said. "Anybody who's making $15,000 a year is not too bad off."

Smith said she would not comment on the utility tax proposals until she had read them in detail and met with members of the city staff.

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