By Brittany Hanson/Garden Grove Journal
An emergency meeting of the Stanton City Council was held on Friday to vote on declaring a fiscal state of emergency in the city as well as to have a public hearing to approve a ballot measure to raise utility taxes. This is due to an increasing gap between revenue and expenditures.
A unanimous vote of approval from city council members set the wheels in motion towards putting the utility tax raise to a vote this coming June.
The utility tax raise of 2.5 percent will be on the public voter ballot for June 21, which would need to pass by 50 percent plus one to be put into effect the for the following fiscal year.
The projected difference between revenue and expenditures for the city for the next fiscal year is about $3.1 million and is projected to increase by another million for the next year. According to Terri Marsh, Stanton’s administrative director and finances director, it is thought that if the deficit continues to build as it has been that the city would be defunct by 2016.
Although stated by council members as a necessary and unwished for potential fix to the problem, some of the public present were still upset.
“I live on a fixed income, every time we want a rate increase we bring this kind of stuff,” said former city council member Charles Rell, “You’ve got to cut, I don’t understand why we keep raising taxes . . . people on a fixed income who aren’t going to get a raise of any sort, are going to keep having to pay more.”
Council member Al Ethans mentioned at the end of the meeting, “I’ve been retired 16 years and live on a flat level, so I don’t like this anymore than you do, we’re in the same boat you all are.”
In order to cover the annual price of police and fire services and to keep required city services in effect, the city has cut one million in costs this year, reduce patrolling officers and closed the front counter at the police substation. Many free services complimentary of the city have had to be cut, because although free to the public, they cost the city money.
Earlier in the week, there was talk of finding a new way to provide police and fire services to the city, something that was shot down by council members wholeheartedly.
“I saw in the paper the meeting that your having today and what you’d be discussing, we’re kind of in the same boat, the cities and the states, we’re an adjacent city, we’re not only friends, but we’re here to support you,” said Garden Grove Mayor Bill Dalton, “Someone had said that you were looking into contracting police services; Garden Grove would be willing to make a bid on that. In the spirit of neighbors, we would be willing to do what we can.”
Police and fire services comprise around 62 percent of the annual budget costs and both services are contracted through Orange County.
There has been a freeze on pay rates for all city staff and city council members. However, this has not been enough to keep everything balanced as it was in previous years.
“This will hopefully buy us more time to give the people in Stanton the services they need and desire. We would appreciate any support that we could get for this,” said Mayor Pro Tem David Shawver.
After nine years of growth in the city, state budget problems have begun to dip into the reserve that Stanton has built up for itself.
“I don’t want to raise taxes, I don’t want to increase costs, but we don’t know what the state is going to do to us and this is going to give us a chance to be a solvent city,” said Council Member Carol Warren.