The Gilbert Town Council will reconsider a water bill surcharge to pay for town employee salary increases and public safety needs, a move made after a heated debate that included personal insults and talk of worldwide tax rebellions.
The majority of the council — which last month rejected the monthly surcharge as well as a primary property tax and sales tax rate increase — changed course late Tuesday and agreed a surcharge of between $1.25 and $7.75 per month needs a second look.
No final decision was made during a study session held in a large conference room filled with Gilbert police officers.
The issue is scheduled to be revisited June 15 by the council, which must adopt a budget by June 30.
The council had been considering the three options to generate revenue to pay for the hiring of 80 new police officers during the next five years, but instead chose to limit all town employee pay raises to 3 percent to balance the 2004-05 budget.
That is until some council members expressed concern Tuesday that Gilbert employees — especially police officers — move through their pay ranges at a slower pace than neighboring communities.
"We haven’t yet become a training ground, but we’re on the verge of doing that," Councilman Don Skousen said.
Councilman Steve Urie, who liked the surcharge idea, had insulting words for Mayor Steve Berman, an outspoken tax and surcharge opponent who has mentioned during previous meetings that he pays the most property tax in Gilbert.
"You sit in your 10,000-square-foot house and you’re telling me you can’t afford $7.75 a month for public safety," Urie said to Berman, who later accused Urie of "grandstanding."
Councilman Dave Petersen, who earlier praised a tax revolt in New Zealand, said he opposed the "utility tax" that would likely increase in future years and be continued indefinitely.
"That’s how government proceeds," Petersen said.
Vice Mayor Larry Morrison talked of anti-tax initiatives gaining momentum in Washington state and said the town needs to be careful of a backlash.