NEWARK — Officials have significantly reduced the duration of a proposed utility users tax in hopes that the Nov. 3 ballot measure will pass, ensuring that the city will receive a steady revenue stream for at least six years.
During a special meeting Wednesday, the City Council agreed to reduce the length of the proposed tax from 20 years to six years, partly because of community opposition, Assistant City Manager Dennis Jones said.
On July 23, the council agreed to place on the November ballot the "City of Newark Vital Services Measure," which would tax utility users 3.9 percent a month for 20 years, if passed.
The time period immediately drew criticism from a handful of people at the July council meeting.
They also argued that the council was trying to hide the two-decade time frame from voters by not having the duration printed on the ballot.
On Wednesday, the council shortened the time frame and agreed to place the duration in the ballot wording.
This time no one spoke against the measure based on those issues.
Newark, a city of about 42,000 people, has projected a $3.5 million shortfall for the 2009-10 fiscal cycle.
In July, the council cut $1.5 million from its original $36.7 million budget, and city leaders said they plan to make additional cuts of more than $2 million later this year.
The city has been using reserve funds in recent years to soften the blow of the tough economy, but officials have said that those reserves will be exhausted by June if a new revenue stream is not created.
Analysts have projected that the proposed utility users tax will cost the average household about $12 a month and generate about $2.6 million annually if passed by voters in November.