Smyrna Town Council reached a stalemate Monday night regarding the proposed 2012 budget and it’s suggested property tax increase.
For the second time this year Town Council took the proposed budget into consideration with disapproving results as members of council argued on everything from the tax rate to what should and should not be included in the 2012 budget.
Town Council had previously sent the budget back down to the Finance Committee for more work following Town Council’s Nov. 7 public hearing/council meeting.
In order to approve the proposed budget Monday night, the Town Council first had to approve the proposed tax rate increase of 3.74-cents. If the tax rate had been approved, then Council could’ve discussed the proposed 2012 budget and then vote on it. Town Council didn’t get this far as several members disagreed on the proposed tax rate.
At one point Mayor Pat Stombaugh even asked for an amendment to increase the tax rate back up to the originally proposed 6-cent tax increase. This amendment was voted down, 6-1, with Stombaugh the only person to voting yes.
“I have fought tax increases for five years. People in this town should know by now that I’m against tax increases if they can be avoided but there’s no avoiding it this time. We have cut and cut and cut, and we have to do a tax increase this time,” Stombaugh said.
When Town Council went to vote on the proposed 3.74-cent tax increase, it too failed by a vote of 6-1 with Councilwoman Regina Brown the sole vote for the tax increase.
The arguments didn’t stop there, though, as arguments were made for and against a new police building, and lifeguards at Lake Como.
Councilman Anthony DeFeo argued that items should be included in the budget that give back to the community such as fixing up parts of Municipal Park. DeFeo was also concerned with having the town only having a $31,000 surplus in the 2012 and feared that such a low reserve would hurt the town.
Town Manager Dave Hugg said the budget at least needs to include funds to pay for employee salary increases as well as the cost of rising prices. Moreover, he said Town Council needs to understand that the town still needs to provide the services residents come to expect such as plowing snow when it storms.
“You can put any number you want in any of those lines but we’re going to provide the services we have to provide. There are going to be some cases I have to spend more than what’s in the line item,” Hugg said.
Eventually town solicitor Terry Jaywork suggested Town Council take some time to determine what the priorities of the town are and then for Council to come back together. He compared Town Council to that of the United States Congress and the inability of the Super Committee to find ways to cut the country’s budget deficit.
“Like the Super Committee, we’re in a deadlock,” Jaywork said.
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.