FERNDALE - Going into its final meeting before it approves the city's 2013 budget, the City Council appears to have lost its appetite for raising taxes.
Not that it would mind new taxes, in the form of new businesses in town. While it considers a possible fuel tax, a solid-waste tax increase and a utility tax increase at its Monday, Nov. 19, meeting, the council also will consider ways to lower fees charged to developers, to encourage business growth.
Based on discussions in committee meetings on Wednesday, Nov. 14, council members are willing to let voters decide whether to create a 1-cent-per-gallon fuel tax for road maintenance, but not until later in 2013, when election costs will be lower.
City Clerk Sam Taylor estimates the cost of putting the gas tax on the November 2013 ballot would be $3,000 to $6,000, while it would cost the city about $34,000 to have the ballot measure in February or the spring.
A delay would help, one council member said, because voters haven't forgotten that they were asked less than a year ago to approve a sales tax hike for road repairs.
"I very much support this penny gas tax. I just think the timing's bad," council member Mel Hansen said.
After approving a 3 percent property tax increase earlier this month, to raise $65,000 to hire a police officer, council members initially said they would raise the solid waste or utility tax to come up with the remaining cost of the new officer. But the council's position on more tax increases had shifted by the Wednesday committee meetings.
Council members Jon Mutchler and Paul Ingram said they didn't want to raise any more taxes. They would rather wait to hire the police officer in April and use some of the $40,000 surplus in the 2013 budget, if needed, to cover the rest of the new hire's expense.
"It seems we're just taxing and taxing and taxing and taxing and taxing," Ingram said. "It's time to say, 'Hold it. We've done enough for this year.'"
Both the solid waste tax and the utility tax rates for 2013 are up for a vote on Monday.
Council also has scheduled two public hearings Monday, one on creating incentives for new business, the other on reducing traffic-impact fees for downtown developers.
The following incentives, if approved, would be in effect through 2014:
- a 50 percent reduction in start-up fees for small businesses;
- waiving fees for developers willing to build on residential lots downtown.
The program would save businesses hundreds if not thousands of dollars, said Community Development Director Jori Burnett.
The council also will consider reducing traffic-impact fees downtown by 7 to 10 percent, which would be justified, in part, by the assumption that some people who stop downtown are passing through on their way home and shouldn't be counted as a traffic impact.
All of these items come before the council at 6 p.m. Monday at 5694 Second Ave. The council will convene a study session on the 2013 budget at 5 p.m.
Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at email@example.com or call 715-2298.