When two new City Council members take their seats in December, they will have exactly one meeting to try to kill a March ballot measure that would increase utility taxes.
Council members had decided in July to begin the process to set an election on the issue. They overrode the protests of anti-tax residents at the public hearing, citing a looming budget deficit that could go as high as $3 million in the next fiscal year.
The ballot measure, if passed by the voters, would increase gas and electric taxes to 5% from 3% and would impose a new 3% tax on telephones.
The council majority reasoned that residents would be feeling some of the anticipated cuts in service by March and be willing to vote a tax increase to keep the city functioning.
But the campaign rhetoric this fall has been adamantly opposed to the tax measure, with all six of the candidates saying they think it is unnecessary. Two of the candidates will succeed Councilmen Donald L. Bone and Don Griffin, both of whom are stepping down.
Incumbent council members voted this week to put the tax measure on the ballot. But City Clerk Alcene Cain pointed out that the new council could affirm, postpone or cancel the election, as long as it takes a vote by its first full meeting Dec. 9.
Councilman Jerry Sigler, who supported the tax measure, said the new members might change their minds about the issue once they are in their seats and have to begin dealing with the budget deficit. "I know a lot of candidates are saying they are against it, and if I were campaigning, I'd say the same thing," he said.