Finance committee looks at tax options

Marietta City Council’s Finance Committee met Monday to weigh options for replacing declining revenues through a property tax, safety-services renewable levy or increase on income taxes.

“People want a specific level of services, a certain protection from fire and police, a certain level to which roads are kept and parks maintained, but you hear often that we just need to live within our means,” City Law Director Paul Bertram said. “But people need to know what the means are, where they come from and what we’ve lost.”

Council has until August to decide whether to place one of the options on the November ballot but noted Monday that revenue from a levy would not be available until 2020 if passed in November. Whereas income tax revenue could first be collected beginning in January of 2019.

A 1.5-mill levy would garner $408,390, and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $52.50 a year.

A 2-mill levy would garner $544,520, and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $70.

A 2.3-mill levy would garner $626,198, and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $80.50.

A 2.5-mill levy would garner $680,650, and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $87.50.

A 3-mill levy would garner $816,780, and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $105.

If the 1.7 percent income tax were increased to 1.8 percent, based upon last year’s tax base, an additional $608,189.33 would be available for city services.

“But I think council should also consider a 1.85 (percent) and 1.89 (percent) etc. too as you weigh your options and see how much money each would bring in,” said Bertram.

Average dollar amounts associated with city revenue losses from federal and state budgets over the years versus added expense was one point Councilman Geoff Schenkel said should be shared at the upcoming public forum to be held March 14 at 6:30 p.m.

Council will further discuss which questions they can answer in that forum Thursday at the 5:30 p.m. Finance Committee meeting.

Ohio Checkbook

Finance Chair Mike Scales also floated the idea of tracking city finances online through the state Ohio Checkbook program.

“If we’re going to put something on the ballot this fall, (in terms of a levy or income tax increase) we have to provide people with as much transparency as possible. That way if the public want to track how money is spent they go to and track it all,” said Scales.

Councilwoman Cassidi Shoaf said that while all of the information on city finances is already available to any constituent who puts in a public records request to city administration, the accessibility provided by uploading that data online could increase public awareness of city constraints and needs.

Councilwoman Cindy Oxender also spoke favorably of the online platform, saying Belpre City Auditor Leslie Pittenger has used the platform for a few years and finds the online component increases office productivity through less staff time devoted to fielding telephone questions.

What’s next

Finance Committee will meet Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in room 10 of the Armory, 241 Front St., to discuss the structure and presentation for the public forum.

Public forum on city finances, revenue streams and city service costs will take place March 14, 6-8 p.m. in room 10 of the Armory.

Source: Marietta City Council.