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ANAHEIM : City Utility Tax May Be Revoked

The City Council will decide today whether to rescind a citywide 4% utility tax that has been opposed by a cross-section of city groups.

Councilman William D. Ehrle, who had favored the tax, changed his position and voted two weeks ago against the tax. He has since come under fire from the city’s employee unions, who say that Ehrle’s change tipped the council majority against the tax.

City officials have said that the tax is the only way to balance the city’s budget and without it, 200 employees may be dismissed.

City employees said Monday that they plan to attend the meeting and show their opposition to more personnel cuts. The Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department staff was told that many of its posts and activities would be the first to go if the tax was rescinded.

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“This is kind of sad because this is all the kids have,” said Aaron Jara, director of Chaparral Park in Anaheim. “And most of the people who work here go to college and like to work here during the summer.”

The tax to cover a $14-million shortfall in the city’s budget went into effect on July 1. City departments have already made 5% across-the-board budget cuts and frozen unfilled positions to cut costs.

After the tax was approved in mid-June, a coalition of local groups formed in opposition and urged council members to find an alternative to the fee on water, gas, electricity and telephone bills that would amount to about $5 extra per household monthly.

In addition, council members will consider a related ordinance to reduce their monthly salaries by 30%, lowering them to $700. Voters approved a pay raise for the council in a March special election, more than doubling their salaries from $400 per month to $1,000.

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The council will also consider an ordinance that would establish a permanent budget advisory committee to give financial advice to city officials. The committee, requested by Councilman Tom Daly, would have 10 members appointed by the council.


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