WEST BOUNTIFUL -- Foremost on the minds of candidates for the three available seats on the West Bountiful City Council is how to manage the budget for the city's future, especially with the recent tax increase affecting the residents.
James Ahlstrom, who has served on the planning commission for several years, feels that community participation will help make the city a better place in which to live. Ahlstrom supports the council's recent property tax increase, because he feels it will help the city save money by making changes now rather than paying the increased cost that would come if delayed any longer.
In advance of the Sept. 13 primary election, Ahlstrom feels his law school education and work experience as a litigation shareholder will be an asset in helping the city avoid unnecessary legal problems and in taking an analytical approach to issues.
"I am hopeful that I will be able to help the city continue on a course of fiscal responsibility, smart development that protects the rural atmosphere of West Bountiful, but also increases the tax base," Ahlstrom said.
James Bruhn, who currently is on the city council and is seeking re-election, said the council has been doing things to help make positive changes for the city and he would like to help carry out those changes. He knows many residents are upset about the tax increase, but feels the city has faced a major budget dilemma.
"We haven't raised property taxes since 1972, so we're trying to run our current expenses on a 1972 budget," Bruhn said. "You can't pay bills for 2011 with a 1972 income. I can't in good conscience not raise them and do the work we need to do."
Laura Charchenko started attending city council meetings last year to see the council work through the budget and decided in the process that the council's position of being financially conservative was not what it should be, given the current economy.
With a background in education and currently a stay-at-home mom, she is hoping to help make some changes in the community.
"It's our money they are spending, so if I am that careful with my money, I can be that careful with widows and single mom's money if I am on the city council," said Charchenko.
Alan Malan likes the city and wants to retain the good things for everyone else living there too.
"The whole reason we have a city to begin with is to combine everybody's resources to help pay for those things we couldn't do for ourselves," Malan said.
He feels that sometimes cities lose sight of their main goals. "I want to make sure that doesn't happen to us, and not just do what's right for the city, but do what is right for the citizens, which is sometimes two very different things," Malan said.
Debbie McKean feels that with several city council positions open, the door could be open for new opportunities in the city.
"I feel like we need some people who know where we've been and where we're going," said McKean, who has served on the city council for two separate four-year terms in past years.
"I care about the city, I do my homework on the issues, and I listen to the people," McKean said.
She feels the tax increases should have been done gradually over the past 15 years, but every time the issues were brought up, no one wanted to be the bad guy.
"It's a necessity, not a luxury, if we want to keep our city unique and beautiful," McKean said.
Steve Schmidt says he has been a lifelong political junkie and reads all things political as a hobby. He would like to take his hobby one step further by becoming an active part of politics at the local level. Schmidt supports the current administration's tax increase, because he doesn't want it to be a crisis situation down the road.
"I know a lot of people are upset, but sometimes they have to make a choice that is difficult, especially since past councils haven't taken care of it," Schmidt said.
He believes his background in business and experience on the planning commission would help him on the city council.
Scott Strong is running because he has some real concerns about how the city is being managed fiscally.
"There have got to be other solutions than just increasing fees and taxes, so I want to be more active in this experience," said Strong, who feels that other options could include bonds, questioning the need for certain expenses or making cuts in other areas to pay for road expenses.
At 24 years old, Brady Tracy may be one of the youngest candidates to run for a city council position in West Bountiful. But with his experience from his family owned shops in the city, he has seen how the city needs to support local businesses in the community, and this has motived him to run for city council. He disagrees with some of the things the current city council is doing financially.
"I think there are a lot of things that can be cut down and looked at in more depth," said Tracy, who hopes that by being on the city council, he would have more power to change things.