CITY HALL NEWS / DUARTE : Utility Tax Gets Preliminary OK


Over the objections of numerous residents, the City Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a 4% utility tax.

The council voted 3 to 2 to direct staff to draw up a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that includes the new tax on water, electricity, gas, telephone and cable bills. Council members who voted for the tax said they had no choice given the city's budget crunch.

Members of the Duarte Taxpayers Group vowed to recall any council member who approved a final budget for the 1994-95 fiscal year that includes the tax. Council members are expected to give final approval in June.

"You're going to hear from the people," said Richard Kee, one of about 100 residents, most of whom oppose the tax, who attended the meeting.

"We'll follow Covina's lead and go the route of recall against anyone who votes for this tax," he said.

Councilman John R. Fasana, who along with Mayor Margaret E. Finlay and Councilwoman Ginny Joyce voted for the tax, said the city's $1.5-million budget shortfall offered no other options.

He said part of that shortfall could be made up by $719,000 in cuts and $194,000 in fee increases, but reductions in services would become eliminations unless a utility tax were implemented. The tax would generate $641,000 annually. Figures on how much the tax would cost the average household were unavailable.

Dissenting Councilmen James D. Kirchner and Phillip R. Reyes said they were concerned about the impact on local businesses already suffering from the recession. Kirchner's two attempts to cut the tax and use more city reserves both failed.

Many of the more than 20 residents who spoke on the tax blamed poor city management for a lack of belt-tightening and called for the resignation of City Manager Jesse H. Duff.

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