Another attempt at a city tax-credit reduction could be just around the corner for Reynoldsburg, even though a number of citizens flocked to City Hall last summer to protest the last attempt to raise taxes without voter approval.
Reynoldsburg City Council members Scott Barrett and Mel Clemens said during a special finance committee meeting Feb. 3 that a tax-credit reduction could solve the city's need for more revenue.
"I know the mayor will balance the budget, but we have to come up with revenue that will help make the streets and city safer," Clemens said. "Whether it is another tax increase for the roads or a tax credit reduction, we've got to run the city.
"We can't go year to year and not worry about it," he said. "We are going to balance the budget, but it is not improving things. We have to come up with the money for improvement."
He said Davidson Drive and some other roads in the city "are practically unsafe."
Reynoldsburg Mayor Brad McCloud had vetoed council's last attempt to reduce the tax credit in July 2013. It would have cut the city's income tax credit in half, requiring residents who work outside the city to pay a 0.75-percent income tax to Reynoldsburg on top of whatever they pay the city where they work.
"I knew the only way the income tax issue on the November ballot had a chance to pass was to veto that tax credit reduction," McCloud said.
"I worked my tail off sitting in people's homes and around town to try to pass that tax increase," he said. "I said then that if the levy fails, then it is a different story about the reduction."
Voters turned down the request for an income tax increase, which would have raised the city income tax from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent, generating about $5 million annually.
The discussion about how to proceed devolved into a disagreement about what council is responsible for and what the mayor's office is responsible for when it comes to devising a budget.
Barrett requested several times during the meeting that McCloud make a formal recommendation if he thinks council should consider another tax-credit reduction.
However, both McCloud and City Attorney Jed Hood said that is not something the executive branch of government should do.
"I think that is a job for council," McCloud said. "I think you better look at your job description again."
Barrett said he wants the administration to "come up with a plan to increase city revenue by at least $2.5 million prior to any budget we pass."
Hood spoke up then, saying, "No, you can't compel the mayor to raise revenue by a certain amount. It is his job to bring you a city budget."
Barrett argued that McCloud could still come up with a plan for more revenue.
"I am officially requesting that the administration bring this council a plan to raise this money, like a recommendation to lower the tax credit or a recommendation to go back to the ballot," Barrett said.
"That is not his function," Hood said. "As a legislative body, that is your function."
Barrett continued to insist it is up to the administration "to come to us with innovative ideas on how we can reduce our budget.
"I truly believe we have done our due diligence and I think the administration has to figure out how to address our lack of revenue and protect our property values," he said. "If we aren't going to fix the revenue side, then we will have to make severe cuts. The administration has to offer some severe adjustments to our budget."
Clemens said 75 percent of the city budget "is paying people," so it would be difficult to find enough cuts to fund repairs to city infrastructure.
"We can't cut our police officers or other people too much -- we have to operate and get the job done for the city," he said. "I appreciate what the mayor said about the tax-credit reduction and I think we should consider it again."
Finance committee Chairman Barth Cotner said he doesn't think anyone wants to do a tax-credit reduction and resident Carrie Acosta said council members "should exhaust all other options" before going back to taxpayers for more money.
Cotner asked Service Director Nathan Burd to put a dollar figure on some of the city's road repair needs.
Burd said Palmer Road was one of the worst roads in the city, and it would cost about $900,000 for resurfacing and repairs. He said Livingston Avenue would be a $4.5 million fix and Baldwin Road would cost $700,000 to fix.
Councilwoman Leslie Kelley said she would like to see city department directors come up with 5- and 10-percent cuts in their budgets, to see how much could be saved that way.
The next special meeting to discuss city finances will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, at the Municipal Building, 7232 E. Main St.