Marion council ponders tax-lid law

The Marion City Council was briefed about the 2018 budget and workshops at the May 22 meeting.

City Administrator Roger Holter said this is the first budget cycle since 1999 that the council has had any kind of imposed tax lid.

“This piece of legislation started in 2014, passed in its first version in 2015, was modified dramatically in 2016, and went into effect Jan. 1, 2017,” Holter said. “But the tax lid doesn’t impact anything until the 2018 budget.”

Some of the key points associated with the tax lid, he said, include any expenses related to debt service and paying bond interest and principle exempted from the tax lid.

“Anything regarding police, fire and emergency medical services is also exempted,” Holter said.

In the future, the city will also need to be smarter about streets and how to fix them, he said.

On another budget issue, Holter said this particular city council hasn’t raised the mill levy in two years, and it doesn’t appear it plans to do it in 2018 either.

“Probably the worst part about the tax lid that’s being imposed is that if municipalities raise even one dollar more than what was levied last year, public approval through an election or mail ballot election is required,” he said.

The cost of the election in small communities like Marion, Holter said, would cost about as much as a full mill on property taxes.

“(The Legislature) didn’t take the valuation fully into consideration,” he said. “There are two bills in the 2017 session still going on that would change this law even more.”

As municipalities respond to the tax lid in the 2018 budget year, Holter said, this is the third year, and almost the fourth year, the state is trying to figure out what it created.

The Legislature is also looking at how this can be realistically inputted.

Holter provided charts with dates for city council training and work sessions.

The first budget timeline is June 19; on June 26, the council will hear from department heads wanting to defend their budget.

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said June 12, 19 and 26 are the “make it or break it dates,” and the dates in July are mere formalities.

The Marion County Board of Commissioners, through Susan Robson, county counselor, told city council members that once EMS has a permanent home, the county would be vacating the building.

Holter said the county has a 99-year lease, but wants to be sure EMS is fully secure in its new location. With a 2-2 vote, the motion did not pass.

The county commission was outlining its intentions in a formal manner, and the city council had an opportunity in a formal manner to comply, but they didn’t.

Councilor Chris Costello said that by doing things in this manner he was concerned how the planning commission would feel.

“It might seem like there was undue pressure put on them by the city council,” he said.

Costello said he preferred to let it work through the process, rather than having any intervention from the governing body.

Holter said the biggest message from this EMS discussion is that the municipalities need to address this on a countywide basis.

“If that means three facilities in three separate communities to provide services, that’s what we all need to be working toward,” he said “It’s whatever delivers for our citizens at the lowest possible cost and at the best possible service—that’s what we all have to keep our eye on.”

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