Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Levy vote may have to wait until November

Proposed increase would generate funds for Bellevue services

Express Staff Writer

A committee of Bellevue residents has made progress in ongoing discussions about a proposal to have city voters consider a levy rate increase, but not as quickly as some city officials might wish.

At a City Council meeting Thursday, March 8, city administrator Tom Blanchard provided city leaders with an update on what the citizens advisory committee has accomplished since being established earlier this year.

"They're really tackling this task," Blanchard said.

The purpose of the advisory committee is to reach a decision on how the city should proceed with a proposed citywide vote on a proposed levy rate increase.

In late 2006, City Council members expressed a desire to have the issue placed on the ballot for the May 22 midterm elections. To achieve that, the city would need to have a notice of election published in Bellevue's newspaper of record, the Idaho Mountain Express, by April 4.

Members sitting on the citizens advisory committee have taken their charge quite seriously, Blanchard told the City Council. Because of this, they may not have an answer for the council in time for the April 4 noticing deadline.

"You may not get a decision from them in a timely manner," Blanchard said.

If the publication deadline passes without a committee recommendation, the next available election date would be during the general elections in November.

To make an adequate case to Bellevue citizens about the need to raise the city's levy rate, city officials will need to have the backing of the committee, council member Tammy Eaton said. Without that, the levy rate increase request is doomed to fail, Eaton predicted.

"I wouldn't do it without them," she said. "It wouldn't be done right."

Voter approval of such an increase is needed, city officials contend, because of the state's 3 percent cap on the amount a city can increase its budget annually. If voters were to approve such an override, the budget would start at a new level, giving Bellevue a chance to catch up with the increasing demand for services.

This would be the third such request by the city of Bellevue in recent years. City voters rejected previous levy rate increases in May of 2004 and 2005.

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