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December 24, 2014

Piedmont council to consider sales tax hike, 9 other cost-saving proposals

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Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 12:34 am | Updated: 12:52 am, Wed Jul 16, 2014.

PIEDMONT -- The City Council today could vote on as many as 10 measures to bring in money to give the city some reserve funds  —  measures that include freezing employee pay raises and a one cent sales tax increase.

The council developed the list after two hours of discussion during a work session Monday.  

Council member Mark Harper said he is not prepared to vote on any of the measures, and called for the city to hire a professional group to perform an economic analysis before enacting changes that will affect finances.

“We’re throwing ideas out, but we don’t really know if they are going to save us money or not,” he said. “We need some professional help.”

City leaders said Piedmont can pay its bills, but the city can’t afford to save money for emergencies. Council members have discussed the problem in work sessions over the past several months.

City leaders expect to bring in about $11 million in revenue in 2014, and spend roughly $10 million of that. The Sewer, Gas and Water Department also must plan for more than $23 million in upgrades in the next five years.

Councilman Ben Keller said the city must move forward and that it should vote today on the tax increase, one of the few steps he said the city could take to raise money quickly.

Keller said the city must increase revenue and needs to make a decision on the matter.

“The only way you're going to solve something is: vote,” Keller said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Piedmont Mayor Bill Baker asked the council to consider two main options that were brought to him individually by council members. One was the sales tax increase, which would mean consumers in Piedmont would pay 10 cents in taxes for every dollar of goods. Currently, the county collects a 1 cent sales tax, the state collects a 4 cent sales tax and the city collects a 4 cent sales tax. City officials say the measure will likely raise $300,000 a year.

The other idea was to freeze employee raises, holiday pay and overtime options, a step that city officials estimate will save $85,000.

City department heads at the meeting said cutting employee pay would drain morale, and police Chief Steven Tidwell said his department is too understaffed to operate without giving some employees overtime.

“We’re at minimal staffing already,” Tidwell said.

Department heads suggested selling unused city property and drafting new policies to ensure the city’s utility customers pay their bills on time.

Baker said he plans to present each of the items to the council today to give members the opportunity to make a motion on each one.

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