Some members of the City Council decided they had been elected to take a stand, so they did.
The council almost took a stand two weeks ago against a referendum that will be on Utah ballots next month to eliminate the sales tax on food. But the council relented and decided to hold a public hearing first.Residents responded at a hearing a week ago, in opposition to the council's proposed stand against the removing of sales tax from food. Tuesday, however, the council voted unanimously to oppose the referendum.
"I think it is necessary to let the people know how we feel," Councilman Norman Woodhouse said. "I am definitely for making a policy statement."
Councilman H. Keith Hunt voted for the proposal but said he just didn't see the need to tell the people how to vote. But Hunt said he feels the issue is important enough to make his position known despite some citizen comment to the contrary.
The initiative would decrease city tax revenue by about $557,000 annually.
Mayor S. Blaine Willes said he feels the vote is important because the city does not want any of its services reduced, which is what would happen with the removal of the tax.
Also, some of the smaller cities in the state would feel the impact so greatly that there would be no way for them to compensate for the loss, he said. Beaver in southern Utah would lose about 25 percent of its income.
There are other reasons why council members oppose the removal of the tax.
Councilwoman Lucile Steele said that in 1980 Orem had 7.16 public employees per 1,000 residents; by 1989 that had dropped to 4.96 employees per 1,000.
"I think we are already lean on employees, and it would be foolish to remove the sales tax," she said.
Woodhouse said he agrees that the tax is high but the services the revenue provides - like fire and police protection, education and school crossing guards - are necessary for the community.
And there have been no suggestions as to which services to cut or which taxes to raise if funding through the tax is lost, Hunt said.
"Those who say the sales tax on food would never be missed just don't understand the issue," he said.
Woodhouse said he took a stand because he feels he was elected to do so.