Candidates clash over city's big issues

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

April 8, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated April 8, 2013 at 11:09 p.m.

From Victoria's biggest problem to the city's role in economic development, the two candidates for City Council District 6 see things differently.

Incumbent Tom Halepaska and his opponent, Russell Pruitt, faced off Monday morning in a debate hosted by the Victoria Advocate.

While there is a long way to go, Halepaska, 63, said the city has a lot going for it.

He said he wants "a chance to finish up," and with that, the chance to keep reducing the tax rate and keep the city's debt in check.

However, Pruitt, 69, said he sees Victoria heading the way of Detroit, a city now strapped by financial mismanagement.

"Victoria is getting into debt, and we're trying to spend our way out of it," Pruitt said.

He said the city needs to take a step back instead of promoting future expansion.

As for the city's biggest problem, Pruitt said it's taxes.

However, Halepaska said the tax rate has decreased annually.

"When I first got on council till now, we've gone from 70 cents per $100 valuation to 60.56 cents per $100 valuation," he said. "I don't believe we have to raise taxes; in fact, we've been lowering them almost every year."

The 2013 tax rate is 60.56 cents per $100 valuation, down from the 2012 tax rate of 64.5 cents per $100 valuation.

The city is operating on a budget of $144.4 million this year, according to records on the city website. Last year, it operated on $153.9 million.

Pruitt said the city's permits and fees restrict business and growth.

"There's lots of red tape and tons of expenses on behalf of the businesses," Pruitt said. "The role of economic development is to ... more or less get out of the way of business."

Halepaska disagreed, saying the permitting process is streamlined and efficient.

"Anytime you're going to build a project, there's a lot of steps to go through," he said. "All the various permits are necessary to make sure (the business) builds a safe structure."



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