After discussing individual department budgets for several weeks, Reynoldsburg City Council may soon have a final city budget to tweak as the clock counts down to a March 31 deadline.
Mayor Brad McCloud said during a special finance committee Feb. 10 that he and City Auditor Richard Harris will prepare a final 2014 budget to replace the interim budget.
"We plan to go line by line through the interim budget to work on what will be my final budget," McCloud said. "That will be tweaked, of course, but it will essentially be the final documentation."
He said his goal is to have the budget to council sometime next week.
Council members have discussed city finances and listened to budget presentations from department heads in special meetings since early January.
Harris said this year's final budget must be submitted to the state auditor's office by March 31.
Councilman Barth Cotner, who is finance committee chairman, said he expects council to come to a consensus and balance the final budget.
"There really isn't a whole lot to cut, since most of our budget goes to employee salaries, but we asked to see what 5- and 10-percent cuts in the budget would look like and our department heads have submitted those," he said. "This whole process was about educating council members about what happens in each department."
Cotner said coming up with a balanced budget won't change the fact the city needs more revenue to fix roads and make improvements.
"I personally would like to see us putting more money into development," he said. "We have a development director now, so we should give him something to work with.
"I would like to see other improvements made in the city, too, but that would mean more revenue, probably in the form of higher taxes," he said. "But when you live in a community where people say they won't pay any more taxes, then it is a difficult line to navigate."
At last week's finance committee meeting, Councilmen Scott Barrett and Mel Clemens both mentioned reducing the city tax credit, which would raise taxes for residents who work outside Reynoldsburg -- without voter approval.
McCloud vetoed council's last attempt to reduce the tax credit in July 2013. That legislation would have cut the income tax credit in half, requiring residents who work outside Reynoldsburg to pay a 0.75-percent income tax to Reynoldsburg on top of whatever they pay the city where they work.
An attempt to raise the city income tax rate from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent failed at the ballot in November. It was the fourth time citizens have said "no" to a city income tax hike.
Cotner said keeping quality city services and pleasing constituents who won't vote for higher income taxes is not an easy task.
"You can't make everyone happy," he said. "I know all the council members want to do their best for Reynoldsburg, but we all have different opinions on what is best."
Resident Brett Luzader said during the council meeting after the special finance committee meeting that a road levy might be more palatable to voters.
"I think you should take a serious look at putting a road levy on the ballot," he said. "The road levy could let people know specifically where the money was going, which might make people decide to support it. I'd like to see this suggestion taken seriously."
Clemens suggested a road tax increase at last week's meeting.
He said Davidson Drive and several other roads in the city are "practically unsafe."
"We have to come up with revenue that will help make the streets and city safer," he said. "Whether it is another tax increase for the roads or a tax credit reduction, we've got to run the city."
Council will meet next in committee meetings at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18 at the Municipal Building, 7232 E. Main St.