Dozens of Lemon Grove residents assembled inside the city's community center for Lemon Grove City Council's March 9 meeting. On the docket for the night was the City's $987,000 budget shortfall and whether the council supports holding a June 8 special election so voters could decide if raising the sales tax by a half cent and increasing the hotel tax by four percent was a good strategy to bring needed revenues to the City's general fund.
Lemon Grove city manager Graham Mitchell introduced the agenda item by unveiling the results of a citywide survey. The results showed that 64 percent of residents favored the increase while 34 percent opposed raising the city's tariffs.
But Mitchell's numbers didn't jibe when it came time for public comment. Out of the nine speakers at Tuesday's meeting, four opposed raising taxes while three supported the initiative -- the remaining two speakers stayed on the fence.
"I don't know why you would declare a fiscal emergency now. This city has been broke for 30 years," said one Lemon Grove resident.
"Come clean and dissolve the city. You're visionless. You stand for nothing. Break this city up and let's act like adults for a change," said another.
The city manager's numbers also didn't hold up when it came to the council. While councilmember Mary England and Mayor Mary Teresa Sessom acknowledged the city's sour finances they did not support increasing sales tax until serious budget reforms are adopted; the remaining three councilmembers thought residents should step up and help the city out.
Councilmember George Gastil pleaded with residents to "throw some pennies our way to help save our city" and councilmember Jerry Jones said the increase in taxes would allow the "breathing space needed to get to a long-term fix."
Despite Jones's support of raising taxes, he voted against declaring a fiscal emergency.
Moments later, Mayor Sessom adjourned the meeting.