The city council refused to support mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ new move to reduce the budget line item that funds recreation to $0 and substitute it with the $3 million in anticipated revenue the recreation tax will bring into city coffers if it is approved by voters on November 3rd, 2015.
Torres’ administration placed a symbolic resolution on Tuesday evening’s council meeting to garner support from council members. The resolution failed due to a lack of motion. Out of the eight council members present none of them moved the item – including Torres’ recreation tax supporters like Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, was absent.
“What this resolution says is that there will be no new revenue derived from the levy,” said council president William McKoy. “The process will be revenue neutral.”
The resolution sought the council’s support to reduce the $2.5 million recreation line item on the budget to $0 in anticipation of the $3 million Torres’ recreation tax will raise from property owners.
“What’s the point if it’s neutral?” asked Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman. “Why are we going through this whole mechanism when we’re looking to do the same thing we’re already doing.”
When he unveiled the new tax earlier in the year, Torres stated that the $2.5 million and the $3 million combined would give a big boost to recreation in the city. In fact, he even suggested the combination of the two funding sources would provide enough funds to construct a recreation center in Buckley Park.
“The amount to be raised by the recreation levy will not be in addition to the amount currently budgeted for that purpose,” reads Torres’ failed resolution seeking council members’ support.
Torres’ switcheroo will still increase the city’s recreation spending by $500,000, but not to the extent the mayor initially promised in early June.
Growing increasingly unpopular as a mayor, Torres is attempting to backtrack from his recreation tax, according to political strategists. One way to save face is to sell the new tax as revenue neutral, according to Torres’ detractors.
The mayor has been intensely criticized for the large tax bills property owners received in late September rendering his new tax proposal unpalatable.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, said the measure is not revenue neutral. He said the only way it would be revenue neutral is if the city reduces its tax levy by the same amount Torres’ recreation tax proposes to collect.
Torres did not respond to a message seeking his comments for this story.