Business License Tax Increase Still In Limbo
At the Study Session Tuesday night the Costa Mesa City Council - minus Gary Monahan, who missed his third recent meeting tonight - spent 90 minutes hearing from a half-dozen concerned residents and Finance and Information Technology Director Bobby Young discuss the possible options for placing an increase in the Business License Tax on the November ballot. The end result was for this issue to be discussed again at the next council meeting on July 17th - next week.
YOUNG LED THE DISCUSSION
Young presented much of the information contained in the staff report, HERE, providing the council with several potential options. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, in a warm-up for the next meeting in a couple hours, attempted to drive the discussion. At one point, as other council members were engaging Young in a discussion of some points he had made, Righeimer interrupted the conversation and asked Mayor Eric Bever to "move the discussion along". Of course, very shortly thereafter HE proceeded to dominate the dais with HIS ideas - sound familiar?
BEVER: "WHAT'S THIS FOR?"
Bever made one of the more curious statements last night. He asked if "we had identified the purpose for this tax?" For a guy who fancies himself some kind of a financial guru, this seemed like a very peculiar comment. I found myself wanting to yell out - "To raise more revenue, dummy!" - but I didn't. After having been party to the struggles for the past seven years to balance the municipal budget, and having participated in gutting the city staff to find savings, somehow finding additional funding sources seemed to have escaped him.
RIGHEIMER: "GET RID OF THE TAX COMPLETELY"
One of Righeimer's ideas was to get rid of the Business License Tax altogether, citing our inability to properly police compliance and difficulty collecting the fees. I guess he's ready to blow off around $800,000 in annual revenue, not to mention the potential increases that might be derived from an increase. These fees have not been adjusted since 1985!
NO TAKERS FOR "PLUG AND PLAY"
Although Young was ready and able to respond to the council's options to his proposals - he had the spreadsheet all fired up and ready to go - none of them seemed interested in playing "plug and play" with the numbers to see if they could cobble together an acceptable solution.
RIGHEIMER: "COPY NEWPORT BEACH"
Instead, Young was sent off with marching orders to ascertain how Costa Mesa might implement a plan similar to that of Newport Beach, which counts heads, not gross sales, for their calculations. This was Righeimer's idea. So, it's back to the old drawing board for Young, his staff and the consultant he has working for him right now.
SOME RESIDENTS CONCERNED
Most residents who spoke were in favor of some kind of an increase, but two resident business owners, Larry Weichmann and John Hawley, expressed concern for ANY kind of tax increase. Of interest to me was the fact that no representatives of business organizations - the Chamber of Commerce or the Convention and Visitors Bureau - were present to make their views known. In fact, there was an amazing lack of interest generally on this issue.