TREASURE ISLAND – In an effort to ease the city’s budget, the city passed two tax increases during the Aug. 19 Treasure Island City Commission meeting.
With commissioners voting the same way on both issues (Commissioners Ed Gayton and Alan Bildz both voted no), increases in the city’s utility and communications services taxes were approved.
The tax on both electricity and water will rise from 6 percent to 10 percent effective Jan. 1. There will be no increase for natural, manufactured and liquefied petroleum gas or fuel oil. The communication services tax will be bumped from 2.32 percent to 5.22 percent, also effective Jan. 1.
The proposed tax increases brought some lively yet sober discussion between commissioners.
As for the utility tax, Gayton noted, “This is a disproportionate tax. This will hurt the mom-and-pops and the hotels and our shops and restaurants. We should try to do something to help out the businesses. This is not going to help.
“The condos can (adjust) if they want. But when you have a restaurant or a shop or a hotel, you are the ones who will be suffering. I don’t see the need to further burden these people.”
Gayton also suggested the city sell the causeway house it owns yet is not used. This is valued Gayton suggested at over $300,000.
Bildz echoed Gayton saying, “I don’t think this is the time to be putting extra taxes (on residents).”
“I think we need to look at whatever is possible to help us with the general fund, especially for next year,” Mayor Mary Maloof said.
City Manager Reid Silverboard noted, “These proposals, as painful as they are, are to maintain a fund balance. These (taxes) are to stabilize the fund balance.”
Commissioner Bob Minning noted that selling the causeway house isn’t a cure-all.
“It is prudent to sell the causeway house, whether it’s now or in the future. But it’s incumbent to reserve that money for the causeway and for its future expenses. Of all the communities who have the full service of police and fire, we have the lowest tax rate.”
“If we sell the house it just defers the problem,” Collins said. “It is just putting (the issue) off for one year. There’s never a good time to raise taxes.”
As for the communication tax, Maloof noted if taxes aren’t raised, the city may be faced with dire consequences.
“This city can face bankruptcy or face losing the departments the people value very highly,” Maloof said. “This is my sixth year as mayor. Little by little we have whittled (the budget) down to the bare bones. There are very few places we can cut unless we cut services that everybody values. I don’t have a better answer.”
Minning noted the communication tax comes out to 6 cents a day per parcel. When Gayton noted he couldn’t support the communication tax increase Minning replied, “Well then we have to start looking at cutting services. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.”
In the Aug. 5 commission meeting, there was neither an agenda item nor official subject discussion of cutting police or fire services. But the subject was brought up in casual conversation while speaking hypothetically in discussing budgetary concerns.
City spokesman Jeff Jensen said the only way the police and fire departments could be eliminated would be by referendum “and I believe a unanimous vote by city commissioners.”