Friday, January 14, 2005

Bellevue contemplates levy

Express Staff Writer

The Bellevue City Council held a special meeting Tuesday, Jan. 11, to explore an avenue to improve city services. The council met in a workshop format to discuss whether the city should move forward with a special election for a levy rate increase. Consensus among members indicated a desire to collect public input before deciding on a course of action.

"I think we should bring this idea to the public," Councilwoman Tammy Schofield said. Schofield and fellow Councilwoman Joanna Ehrmantraut called the meeting to decide whether to pursue a special election in May asking for a levy rate increase.

The increase aims to improve city services by increasing city revenue through property taxes.

In May 2004 the city held a special election for a levy rate increase which failed to pass by a 4 percent margin.

During the recent meeting, Councilman Jon Wilkes asked fellow council memembers for a show of hands to indicate which members would support the rate increase. All council members, except Vivian Ivie, indicated they would support pursuing the levy.

Ivie indicated she was "on the fence" on the measure.

"I don't think it will pass again," Ivie said.

Mayor John Barton expressed considerable opposition to the proposal. He referred to the council's unanimous decision to increase the city's budget by drawing from the city's savings fund.

"The council didn't manage the funds as well as they should have," he stated.

Barton stressed the city should "tighten (the budget) down, not look for more money."

During 2004-2005 budget deliberations, the council struggled with a lack of funds and a need to hire additional personnel as a result of continued pressure on city services caused by population growth. The council contemplated alternate proposals like eliminating the library or cutting their own salaries to fund city operations. In the end, the council voted to cut street and administrative funds and to draw from savings.

The council decided to offer an exploratory forum to gather the public's sentiments about the levy. A decision to move forward with an election must be made by April 6.

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