Sonora City administrators say they are stunned this afternoon. During a special meeting of the Sonora City Council this morning, the council voted 3- to -2 to drop work on a proposed city sales tax increase ballot measure.
A somewhat speechless Sonora Mayor Marlee Powell — who voted in favor of putting a sales tax increase before the voters along with councilwoman Liz Bass — says they and City Administrator Greg Applegate are shocked with the outcome.They felt it was agreed upon by the whole council the proposal would go through.
“The outcome was a bit of a surprise to me. It was a big surprise to me, actually,” Powell told AM 1450 KVML news this afternoon.
Powell explained today the council was set to agree we would go forward with a sales tax ballot measure which would ask the citizens, “Is this what you want to do?”
“We had been talking about augmenting our revenues for several years,” Powell said. She added the discussions by the city council have been on-going for several months.
“We had be discussing the pros and cons of different types of taxes, different methods and time, so forth,” Powell said.
When asked if she though the sudden switch by council members David Sheppard, Hank Russell and Ron Stearns on this issue had anything to do with the upcoming March election, the Mayor said “Maybe.” She said, “It´s hard to think that was the motive, but who knows.”
Councilman David Sheppard has been on the council for four years. He says there was nothing going on “under behind the scenes.” He said that he and the other council members needed more information.
“I personally feel that it should be very clearly spelled out,´ Sheppard said. “Any increase would be totally devoted to cops, salaries, extra firemen and public works workers.”
He added the tax money should not go to any overhead or city staff.
“The people on the council all get along very well with Marlee Powell even though we are obviously of different political affiliations
The additional funding from the proposed sales tax would go for police and firefighter salaries. Sheppard said there were six motions up for vote this morning.
Also, the council wants to add funding for public works staff to the sales tax increase proposal. “They have five guys,” Sheppard said. Powell agrees with the need to fund that department for additional staffing.
The council, Sheppard said, is in agreement that the proposed tax increase will be a half cent on top of the 7.25-cents per dollar current percentage. The council is also leaning to a special tax opposed to a general tax.
“A general tax, for a city like ours,” Powell said, “would not be able to be on the ballot until the next time council people are elected, two years from now.,” in March of 2006.
The mayor says she´s really not sure where this issue will go now. She says the concept of a sales tax increase is not totally dead, but but the effort has been “greatly impeded .”
Sheppard agrees. “We are going to meet (again) pretty quick.” He said if city staff is prepared with additional information they will plan another special meeting on the matter.