San Carlos council dismisses idea of new taxes 

City leaders on Monday rejected the option of using new taxes as a way to raise additional money for general fund coffers, saying they would prefer to raise revenue by boosting local business.

Faced with looming costs, city officials are looking for ways to add to their coffers. The discussion comes at a time when cities like Menlo Park are adding utility taxes to their portfolio of ways to boost city revenues, but council members rejected that approach at a meeting on Monday.

"I think we should identify sites that are sitting vacant and create incentives for the owners to do something," Council man Matt Grocott said. Two vacant sites, including the former Breuner’s building and the former Praxair site, are either under construction or being considered for new development that includes retail.

Vice Mayor Brad Lewis suggested capitalizing on recent green-business trends by drawing construction-supply houses.

"If we can economically reach out and grab a couple of companies, that’ll be a sustainable business for the next 20 or 30 years," Lewis said.

Lewis argued that taxes for extra services or amenities, such as the Measure G parks tax, might gain support from voters who otherwise have not supported new taxes for basic city services such as the fire department.

Some residents, thoughwary of tax increases, agreed with Lewis.

"Personally, I’m not opposed to [a tax] if I know it’s going to be put to a good use," Laureola Neighborhood Association President Scot Marsters said. "There are a lot of people who would be against it, though."

San Carlos cut positions and spending in 2006 to close a $2 million budget deficit, balancing its $25 million budget through June 2007, according to City Manager Mark Weiss. However, the city’s fire department will cost an additional $400,000 in 2007-08, and an additional $1.3 million by the 2010-11 fiscal year, according to a report fire Chief Doug Fry will deliver to the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Board today.

It remains to be seen how — and whether — San Carlos can build new businesses fast enough to close the coming budget increases, according to Weiss.

"The challenge will be in how to structure that, and how to make whatever is proposed acceptable to the community — and in a way that addresses the immediate problem," Weiss said.

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