Marion council debates language of budget ordinance

by Patty Decker

The Free Press

The Marion City Council adopted an ordinance for budget year 2016 as required by state law at its Aug. 31 meeting, but one council member voted against it.

Councilor Jerry Kline took issue with language in the ordinance that stated ?…it will be necessary to budget property tax revenues in an amount exceeding the levy in 2015 budget.?

According to City Administrator Roger Holter, the ordinance was written that way because the levy could increase based on the final property valuation.

The levied amount in the 2016 budget is about $10 million or 70.33 mills, which wasn?t an increase from the previous fiscal year, he said.

?It is still an unknown until the (Marion County) appraiser?s office completes the property valuations.?

All projections for 2016 were based on $10 million worth of value, he added.

For an example, Holter said if the appraiser?s office in November sets the valuation at $9.9 million, the levy would need to be increased slightly to generate the $10 million needed to operate the general fund.

Holter said the city could see the valuation go the other way, too.

?If the appraiser?s office comes in at $10.1 or $10.2 million, the levy will actually be less than what we projected,? he said.

Levy remains flat

Kline said he?s not only heard from retired people, but a lot of other people have spoken to him about the wording in the ordinance identifying an increase in tax revenues.

?Mr. Kline, you didn?t raise the levy,? Holter said. ?You gave us specific instructions and, as your administration, we went through and modified everything.?

At a previous meeting prior to approving the 2016 budget, Holter explained those modifications equated to a $27,000 reduction in what was presented by department heads.

?There are other ways of looking at it,? Kline said.

In response, Holter said the administration would be open to any proposals from him.

?I can give it to you, but not right now,? Kline said.

Councilor Jerry Dieter said: ?We don?t know what the valuation will really be, and so if you don?t have that statement in (the ordinance) you can get caught (having fewer tax dollars).?

Councilor Chad Adkins said the city has to approve the budget in August, but the valuation isn?t completed until after the city has approved the amount.

Prior to recent changes in state law, the city adopted and published ordinances in the past, Holter said.

?In the past the law was (cities, other entities) had to do an ordinance if increasing the mill levy for the general fund only. Now, it?s for any and all.?

Holter, the city didn?t have to adopt and publish an ordinance, but there were reasons to do so.

?(The city) just felt it better for transparency to the public and also to try to restore confidence in local government,? he said. ?Our sense was there was considerable mistrust of government from 2007 through 2013.?

County clerk input

Marion County Clerk Tina Spencer said the value of one mill in Marion was about $10,098 in 2015.

By comparison, the value of one mill in the current year for the city of Hillsboro is $16,249.

?The value is set by the appraiser?s office on real estate, oil and gas and personal property,? Spencer said.

Spencer said if the city of Hillsboro, for example, said they need to raise $659,953, and that?s what is published, she must levy $659,953 in taxes, regardless of whether that makes their levy rate higher or lower than their published amount.

Once all levies are entered into the system, the clerk?s office generates the tax roll and certifies it to the treasurer by Nov. 1.

The value of a mill for Marion County for 2016 was about $123,228 on July 1, Spencer said.

Taxpayers pay multiple levy rates, she said. They will pay the county rate, school district rate, a rate for the city or township where they live and they might pay a levy for a fire district, cemetery district, hospital district, library or other levies.