Emeryville mayor can't pay business taxes

November 11, 2008 7:04:52 PM PST
One East Bay mayor is refusing to pay his business license tax. It's an important source of revenue for any city, but the Emeryville mayor has a reason for not paying -- one that many people around the Bay Area understand all too well.

Mayor Ken Bukowoski opposed Emeryville's business tax license when it came before the city council four years ago.

"I do think it should be changed," said Mayor Bukowski.

And ever since then, he hasn't paid a cent on the tax. Even though, as a landlord who owns rental units, he is required by law to do so. Exactly how much Mayor Bukowski owes is unknown. It's likely a few hundred dollars.

"I don't encourage anybody not to pay the biz license tax," said Bukowski.

It's not his opposition to the tax that's keeping him from paying. The mayor is like thousands of others around the region. The property he lives in and those rental units are on the brink of foreclosure.

"It's embarrassing to have a financial hardship especially in my position where people, I guess, expect that a mayor is supposed to have a lot of money," said Bukowski.

He says it's been a rough year. Just days after he became mayor last December, he hit and killed a pedestrian crossing the street while driving on a rainy night. And Bukowski lives off his rental income and the small stipend he gets for being on the city council. He says he fell behind on his mortgage after a series of vacancies.

Emeryville is predicting it got could lose about $500,000 in revenue in coming years and the city council is currently debating whether to raise taxes for business and property owners here.

"I would be uncomfortable saying, 'Look we need to raise revenue,' if for example I was not paying the business license tax," said John Fricke, on the Emeryville City Council.

Others say they pay their share and the mayor should too.

"It does kind of make me mad to see that someone is not paying their business taxes," said Sebrena Flennauch, owner of It's A Breeze One Hour Photo.

The business license tax brings in about $2.5 million a year for Emeryville. The city attorney's office has warned Bukowski he needs to pay up.

"I really feel sorry for people out there who have a similar condition. It's a crime to be broke in America," said Bukowski.


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