The city could raise utility tax rates for between one and three years, he said, while it waits for tax income from the Rosewood Hotel and other projects to fill the gap between expenses and revenues.
Anticipating a backlash from those who have pushed for city staffers to bear at least some of the burden for the economic downturn, Mr. Robinson told residents not to get caught up in short-sighted criticism by the council's detractors, and not to lose sight of what's best for the city in the long run.
"It's easy to be the outsider who questions or criticizes every decision made," Mr. Robinson said. "We too often find that the solution that pleases everyone in the short term, satisfies no one in the long run."
He urged resident to consider "all interests," "not just the voices of naysayers and critics."
"Let's not allow our fear of the current uncertain times to be a substitute for action," he said.
Turning to city staffers assembled in the council chambers, Mr. Robinson said, "I want to make it clear that significant reductions in staff are our last option" in the council's attempt to balance the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Lee Duboc, a former council member who has repeatedly pushed for the city to scale back benefits to staffers, shot back in a post on her blog.
"As this unabashed naysayer and critic sees it, our Mayor's vision of the future is comforting unless you happen to be a taxpayer," she wrote, arguing that it isn't fair to expect residents who are suffering from the economic crisis to help the city balance its books.
It is unclear whether a majority of council members would approve a steep tax hike. Councilman John Boyle has been a frequent critic of the tax, and Councilman Rich Cline has said that the city has to look at other options in trying to work its way out of a deficit.
"We can't just put (the city's deficit) on the backs of the community," in the form of a utility tax hike or a cut in services, Mr. Cline said at a Feb. 24 meeting.
The city enacted a two-tiered utility users tax in April 2007 — 3.5 percent on utilities (water, gas and electric bills), and 2.5 percent on communications (telephone, television and Internet bills) — in order to narrow what the city maintains is a long-term deficit. Council members voted to lower the rates to their current 1 percent level that June, after the city realized that revenues were coming in higher than expected.
For a condensed version of Mr. Robinson's speech, see Page 23.