Four town-hall meetings slated on Crestwood’s proposed tax hike

Meetings not a forum to ‘sell’ tax-rate increase, Alderman Foote says

By BURKE WASSON

Crestwood residents will have four chances beginning this week to ask questions and further learn the rationale for a 35-cent tax-rate increase that the Board of Aldermen has placed on the Aug. 5 ballot.

The city has scheduled four town-hall meetings for each of the city’s wards.

Each will begin at 7 p.m. as follows:

• Ward 3 — Wednesday, July 16, at the Community Center, 9245 Whitecliff Park Lane.

• Ward 2 — Tuesday, July 22, at the Crestwood Government Center, 1 Detjen Drive.

• Ward 1 — Wednesday, July 23, at the Whitecliff Community Center.

• Ward 4 — Wednesday, July 30, at the Whitecliff Community Center.

An alderman from each ward will lead a presentation and discussion at each meeting. Ward 4 Alderman John Foote told the Call Monday that the meetings are not a forum for aldermen to “sell” Proposition 1, but to educate residents about the city’s financial condition and to answer questions.

“These (meetings) are not designed to sell a tax increase,” Foote said. “They’re designed to present the facts to the residents. And people should bring questions as to what, why and what are the reasons.

“They need to know the answers. So I do not think that we need to do anything other than answer the questions. It isn’t saying: ‘We need to have this.’ And it isn’t saying to residents: ‘You give us this money or we cut costs and we cut services.’ This is not a threat. This is just how your city stands at this point. You make up your mind on what you want for your city.”

Voters will decide Aug. 5 whether to approve a six-year tax-rate increase of 35 cents per $100 on real and personal property to head off declining retail and property-tax revenues. The measure would generate an estimated $1,130,528 per year.

A presentation of city finances in April showed that while $12,676,109 is budgeted this year, Crestwood officials now believe that “the city may not have enough revenue to cover those expenditures.”

Looking at city trends, Foote said it is becoming apparent that the city’s dependence on sales tax for 54 percent of annual revenue is continuing to hurt. For this and other reasons, he said residents should be asked whether they want to change that balance between sales-tax revenue and property-tax revenue.

“What the board has been doing for the last three years is balancing the budget by making cuts,” Foote said. “And it’s high time the residents understand that the budgets have been balanced by cutting, not by increasing income. It has been a continuing downward spiral of income and a continuing upward spiral of costs. The choice the board now has is continue the cuts or try and build other income sources. And in order to give the residents a vote on which direction the city should go, the item of income went on the ballot in August.

“… It is to the best effort of everyone in the city to get familiar with what the actual finances are and understand that they have a choice. It’s their city. The board is not threatening to do this or do that. The board is merely trying to compensate for continually falling sales taxes and the difficulties with a new development process on the mall. We have to find a way to pay the bills, and the residents ought to have a chance to vote on this issue. We are going to obviously do the best we can with whatever decision the residents make.”