Longtime Newcastle residents square off in contested race
October 9, 2011
By Christina Lords
All budgetary options on table as candidates vie for council spot
As the city prepares to hammer out its 2012 budget in mid-October, the two men running for the only contested seat on the City Council say all options are on the table to combat continued decreases projected for the city’s revenue streams.
Gordon Bisset, who dominated the Aug. 16 primary by gathering 70 percent of the votes, said the city must focus on its true needs, not its wants — even if that means laying off some of its staff.
Bisset faces Frank Irigon for the Position 4 seat on the council in November.
The winner of the general election will replace longtime Councilman Sonny Putter, who was elected to the council in 1994.
Incumbent councilwomen Lisa Jensen and Carol Simpson and incumbent Deputy Mayor Steve Buri have filed to run for re-election this fall in their respective positions. Each will be unopposed on the November ballot.
“If we reorganize and get rid of some of directors or managers, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll have some cuts in service,” Bisset said. “It will just be more streamlined, and we’ll be spending less money.”
Irigon agreed that city officials must re-examine the salary schedules of employees and determine if the size of the city staff is congruent with the size of the city.
In a situation where some projections show the city running out of money by 2015, every revenue option must be explored — including the possibility of increased property taxes or implementing a utility tax, Irigon said.
“My approach is this: I’m willing to work collaboratively with the City Council to look at those options and other options that are available,” Irigon said.
Bisset said raising property tax is one option to create revenue for Newcastle, but he won’t favor it one way or the other until he sees a preliminary budget.
The city must invest in its infrastructure instead of other less critical side projects, he said.
“It’s really important we keep up our maintenance of our roads and storm water facilities,” Bisset said. “If you let them go, they just cost a tremendous amount more money to fix them later.”
The council may also realize some cost savings by looking into less expensive health care plans for city workers, he said.
Irigon said the key to making any budgetary decision is increased communication with the public. Explaining to residents how and why financial decisions are made is something residents feel the City Council isn’t doing well, he said.
“While I was doorbelling, a person told me he wouldn’t mind having his property tax increased if he knew what the city was going to be doing with that money,” he said. “It’s up to the City Council to step up to the plate.”
If elected, Bisset said he would like to set up monthly meetings with constituents for more open communication between the city and residents.