WESTMINSTER — Tonight is the last chance for citizens to tell the City Council just what to do with its budget.
In response to public outcry at Monday's budget hearing, city officials set up a phone line Thursday for residents to comment on the proposed $1.6 million City Hall expansionproject.
A City Hall employee will take calls at 848-9000 until 5 p.m. today to ask residents:
* Do you favor the City Hall expansion project?
* Do you favor a pay-as-you-go policy with money presently available or favor bonding, which would require dedicating up to 8 cents of the tax rate for 20 years to pay off the debt?
As of Friday afternoon, 36 people had phoned in replies, with 18 in favor of City Hall expansion and 13 against. Five callers proposed waiting for a consultant's study before making a decision.
Nine citizens favored a pay-as-you-go policy; 15 preferred bonding. Twelve were undecided.
"This is an attempt to reach out and touch other members of the city and see how they feel about City Hall funding," Councilman William F. Haifley said Wednesday. "This is the democratic way. Majority rules, and we want to act accordingly."
City Councilman Samuel V. Greenholtz, who backs a pay-as-you-go policy, said he would follow the majority's preference.
"If people want the bonding route, that consideration should be given to the budget," he said.
Haifley said he also would take calls at 848-5396, his home number.
Council members will vote tomorrow night on a proposed budget that allocates $1.3 million for expanded city office space.
Although few doubt that expansion is necessary, citizens have asked council members not to finalizethe budget until a $35,000 consultant's study of city office space is completed. A city ordinance requires that the budget be passed by May 30.
The consultant's report is expected to be completed within two weeks.
"What's the big rush?" asked former councilman Kenneth A. Yowan, a candidate in tomorrow's council race. "(The council) could have a public hearing and still have time to act on the budget."
City officials said the seven residents who spoke out Monday in favor of waiting for the study and bonding the project do not represent amajority of Westminster's citizens.
"Our belief is that those whospoke at the meeting were not speaking for the silent majority," Haifley said, adding that citizens he spoke to -- from former members ofcity government to individual taxpayers -- have supported the project.
"I have talked to double the number of people who spoke Monday night, and they all encouraged me to solicit more opinions."
However, proponents of bonding said the question neglects to mention that taxes could be lowered by 12 cents to 24 cents if the city borrows the money. The current rate is 91 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
Yowan said he favored cutting taxes even if the 8 cents had to beadded later to pay for the project.
Council candidate RebeccaA. Orenstein agreed, adding that residents won't know what expansionoptions are available until the space study is presented.
"I'm not comfortable about deciding until we know what we're buying," she said.