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Utility tax cut returns to agenda

The 6 percent tax Oak Harbor residents pay on water, sewer, solid waste and storm water may go back on the old chopping block.

Councilman Bob Morrison asked to put the 6 percent utility tax back on the council agenda. Two months ago, the council voted 4-2 to table a proposal by Council members Sheilah Crider and Paul Brewer to get rid of the tax.

Now, Morrison, who voted to table the proposal, said he wants to settle the issue and may support a compromise. He suggested that the tax could be cut to 3 or 4 percent while still balancing the budget.

“It’s a matter of common sense negotiations,” he said. Morrison was joined in the vote to table the issue by Nora O’Connell-Balda, Eric Gerber and Richard Davis. Councilman Danny Paggao was absent.

City Administrator Thom Myers warned against axing the tax, which he said could force the city to lay off about 19 employees. He said the city’s bare-bones budget relies on the utility tax, which yields about $550,000 a year or 8 percent of the general fund.

The majority of the council members agreed with Myers, saying that it wasn’t the right time to hurl the budget into uncertainty.

This week, however, Myers said he’s also working on a compromise to satisfy the tax-conscious council members. He said he may propose “stabilizing” or freezing the ever-increasing utility rates for a period of time, but he stressed that he’s “still trying to work out the numbers.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstens

land@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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