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How council candidates would save the budget

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporters
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The News Messenger asked prospective City Council members if they would have balanced the budget differently, and what the city should do if the proposed utility users’ tax (UTT) doesn’t pass. Two City Council seats are open since it’s an election year. The seats of Linda Stackpoole and Kent Nakata are open. Running for the open seats are Stan Nader, Richard Pearl, Jeff Greenberg and Stackpoole. “I would have focused more on enterprise funds,” Nader said, “because in a budget committee meeting, the city manager said one of the water supervisors made the suggestion that if the city could reduce costs in enterprise funds through wage concessions, they might be able to lower the water fee, making it easier for people to accept the UUT.’” Nader said he would have proposed a Community Facilities District, and have “the money go to police and fire.” “It’s still a tax; it’s just that it’s specifically for police and fire, and can’t be used for anything else,” Nader said. Nader served on the City Council in the early 1990s. That council was recalled because it passed a utility users’ tax. Pearl, who served as chairman for the city’s Citizen Financial Task Force during the last fiscal year, said he wouldn’t have balanced the budget differently. “I think they were realistic in what they could achieve, in other words they knew employees had to give up benefits, knew they couldn’t have any new programs,” Pearl said. “What they were trying to do was hold onto existing programs and give pink slips unless the UUT is passed. There’s only so much you can do, and in what I said in my statement to the council, is that it wasn’t a pretty situation but a realistic situation.” If the utility users’ tax doesn’t pass, Pearl said, there isn’t much that can be done. “I don’t see sales tax and property tax increasing next year. I don’t think there’s much that can be done on the revenue side so you’re left with the expense side,” Pearl said. “I’m hopeful that it will pass and I think it will. I think what people understand is how much it is versus what they’ll be losing if it doesn’t pass.” The News Messenger and Stackpoole left phone messages for each other but were unable to contact by press time. Greenberg was unable to answer questions by press time because he was in the hospital Wednesday due to gall bladder-related symptoms.