July 13, 2020

Presque Isle council passes resolution opposing TABOR

PRESQUE ISLE – In a 5 to 1 vote on Monday night, the Presque Isle City Council opposed the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which will appear as the first question on the Nov. 7 ballot.

TABOR will ask if voters want to limit increases in state and local government spending and require voter approval for all tax and fee increases. The measure would limit the growth of spending at the state and local levels to the annual rate of inflation and population growth. It would require a two-thirds majority approval by voters for any tax or fee increases.

Supporters of the proposal maintain that TABOR allows for reasonable growth of government at all levels while also creating a stable tax and regulatory climate.

City councilors passed a resolution that states in part, “TABOR establishes poorly designed and irrational budget restriction formulas that attempt to dictate the amount of money local voters can raise and spend to provide municipal and school services, directly interfering with local control over crucial budget decisions.”

The council indicated that TABOR would take financial decision making away from the elected body and require super majority votes and referendums, City Manager Tom Stevens said Tuesday.

Stevens said that when councilors set the annual mill rate, they can make accommodations for circumstances happening “right then,” but that because it is formula driven, TABOR would not give city officials the ability to meet changing needs.

Officials resolved to oppose TABOR and to work to defeat the measure by informing local voters of the potential negative impacts on local services, quality of life and local control over taxes and spending.

In other city news:

. Hundreds of people attended the Presque Isle Public Safety Building’s Open House on Saturday. Crowds took tours of the building, which is 5 years old and houses the Presque Isle Police Department and Presque Isle Fire Department.

. The city is moving a little slower than originally anticipated on efforts to demolish Cunningham Middle School. City councilors had wanted to “fast track” the demolition of the aging Third Street school. Stevens said that can’t be done because of a long list of tasks that needs to be complete before the building can be razed.

The city has to complete an asbestos impact study, drain antifreeze from the building’s pipes, ensure the building has no mercury switches, remove usable items from the building, and take care of an underground fuel tank.

Stevens said the list will slow down progress, but that officials still anticipate project completion this winter.

. Workers were wrapping up work Monday to dredge Mantle Lake. Thousands of cubic yards of phosphorus rich soil were removed, at an initial cost of $63,000, to eradicate an algae problem at the lake.

Officials received an unpleasant surprise this fall when dredging crews discovered an old wood and clay dam that had acted as a sediment pool, nearly doubling the estimate on how much soil had to be removed.

City officials gathered $29,000 in additional funding, but that only allowed for a substantial completion of the project. A $50,000 donation from the Mark and Emily Turner Foundation a few weeks ago has allowed for 100 percent project completion.

Stevens said dredging crews were “down to the last corner” Tuesday afternoon. He said the only thing that remains is to remove the road used to haul material out of the lake bed.

With project completion, Stevens said the lake should start to fill up on its own this week.

The City Council will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 6, in council chambers.

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