Oak Harbor taxes: What the candidates say

"How should the city balance it’s budget if Initiative 695 passes?Here’s what the candidates say the city should do to make up for the $800,000 the city will lose if the initiative does pass:MayorRichard Davis, a city council member and a financial consultant, said he would prefer a combination of cuts and tax increases. He said all non-essential services should go. He said every department in the city will have to see cuts. He said the city needs to “look at creating some new efficiencies.” He said the city should work with employees to see if they would prefer to cut back on hours instead of laying off people. But even with all the cuts, he said some sort of tax increase might be necessary “We’ve got limited options to explore,” he said. In the long-run, he said the solution is to encourage business so the city generated more sales tax revenue.Patty Cohen, a former multiple-term city councilmember, said city officials and city staff have to work together as a team to find ways to save money and cut costs. “We need to re-tool the business of city government,” he said. She said that city employees should be involved in the process because they know what the citizens want and are aware of how the city works. She said the city does have room to “tighten its belt.” She said any cuts should be shared by all department across the board. Position 1Bob Morrison, the chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Task Force, said the city has the choice of either cutting employees or raising taxes, but the city is already tight on employees. He said the city cannot afford to chop police or fire department employees. He said the city should take a second look at B & O taxes.Position 2Paul Brewer, the incumbent and director of the Navy recycling program, said that the city can cut out $800,000 from its budget by cutting “unnecessary things.” He said the city can eliminate the $80,000 fire boat that is budgeted for, consolidate some of the top city administration positions, reduce travel for the mayor and City Council and delay some projects. He said the city administration’s threats of having to fire 10 to 15 people is “a bunch of bologna” meant to scare people for political reasons. “I’m sure there are areas to cut without hurting people,” he said.Eric King, owner of Whidbey Printers, said the city should cut back on both services and employee hours. “Hopefully it won’t come down to the point where we have to lay off some people,” he said. He said he doesn’t like the idea of raising taxes, but it might be the only way to keep vital services going. If there is a tax increase, he said it should apply to everyone — unlike the proposed business and occupation tax which only applies to businesses.Position 3Rex Hankins, the incumbent and a retired technology industry executive, said he’s “dead set” against raising taxes, but he’s not sure yet where the cuts can be made. He said he asked the city administration for a “time and motion” study several years ago to see where the city is over-staffed, but the administration refused. He said the city has between $2 million and $3 million in investments that can be used for an emergency — and he said I-695 is an emergency. He said the city should hold a special election next year to see if the people want to raise their own taxes.Helen Chatfield-Weeks, a head of the both the pier and the parks committee, said she’s not sure until she gets the chance to study the budget in detail. But she said she would take the advice of the city supervisor and mayor into consideration."

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