As the entire country struggled with ways to combat a sputtering economy in 2009, Marysville experienced a very similar challenge on the local level, in the form of a much-talked about November drive to raise the city's municipal income tax.

As the entire country struggled with ways to combat a sputtering economy in 2009, Marysville experienced a very similar challenge on the local level, in the form of a much-talked about November drive to raise the city's municipal income tax.

While that effort ultimately fell short by less than 100 votes, in looking back on the year, city leaders said an anemic economy also offered several opportunities for Marysville.

"There has been a silver lining," said city administrator Jillian Froment. "I would never want the city to be in the position that it is right now, but that's not going to stop us from trying to be innovative and to work on the things that we can do.

"The downturn has allowed us time to work on the city's Comprehensive Plan, and we've also had some time to work on a technology plan for the city, which is intended to make us into a more transparent and communicative organization."

Froment said that the city's administration began 2009 with an idea of its financial difficulties, but without knowing just how bad the nation's financial crisis would become.

"As we came into 2009, the Mayor (Chris Schmenk) and I had been through our first budget process and had seen what sort of financial challenges the city had over the last 10 years," she said. "We saw that our costs were beginning to outpace the revenues we had coming in, and we saw not only a safety services issue that had been under-funded for many years, but we were beginning to see the economic downturn and that things were coming to a head."

To determine what course of action to take, Froment said the city posed the problem of funding Marysville's safety services to a community group in the first months of this year. The group brought forward its recommendations for improved safety services, which would entail a renovated fire station and police facilities, along with a second fire station to be placed somewhere north of the railroad tracks that bisect the city. By the month of May, city leaders knew they would need to ask the city's voters for a way to fund those improvements, Froment said. That request was to raise the city's municipal income tax from 1.0 to 1.5 percent, projected to raise an additional $4.1-million annually.

"Then in the summer, we started feeling the first effects of the economy," she said. "It wasn't just felt in our income tax, but also our investment earnings we weren't making the interest off of them that we had before. Inspection fees were down as well. We were facing a $1-million shortfall that we had to make up this year, so we went into the (November) election knowing that we were already pulling back on the services we could provide."

Council President John Gore said city leaders tried to take a positive approach to the levy campaign.

"I think, some of the complaints we've heard from voters over the years, and it doesn't matter what community you live in, is that they get so tired about hearing about how you're going to cut sports (in the case of school levies), or the services you're going to deny; that they're being threatened," Gore said. "Our approach was, here's the facts, here's the budget, here's what it costs to operate each of our departments; instead of saying what's going to be cut, we said 'this is what we need.'"

When it came down to the vote, however, just enough residents disagreed with the city's need for the income tax levy for it to fail. When the final vote tally was in, 2,711 voted for the increase, and 2,795 had voted against it - a difference of 84 votes.

Although the city was unable to convince voters to raise the income tax, Froment and Gore both said 2009 saw some encouraging accomplishments in Marysville, including the opening of the new reservoir on Raymond Road, which can hold 1.3-billion gallons of water and can supply the city's needs on its own for 375 days. Another major infrastructure improvement was accomplished on May 21, with the official opening of the city's new water reclamation facility on Beecher Gamble Road, which serves not only existing residents, but will prepare for the city's business and residential growth, Froment said.

Several ambitious initiatives are already in the works for 2010, most notable among them a second shot at an income tax increase city council approved the measure earlier this month, which would place a similar request for a 0.5-percent increase on the May ballot. This time however, Gore said, the request could be altered further before it goes to voters. Two public meetings have been scheduled for January to gather resident input on the idea of including a commuter credit system as part of the request, Gore said.

"We're having these two public meetings, not as a way to debate with people, but primarily to listen," he said. "Let's have a discussion, let's hear how you feel about this."

Froment said an exciting project that will be brought to attention in January will be the adoption of a Comprehensive Plan for the city. The plan breaks the city down into eight distinct sub-areas, and provides both professional and community input on how those areas should be marketed, improved, assisted by city zoning, and how their individual characters' should be maintained.

Gore concluded by saying that while 2009 may have been a tough year economically, Marysville and Union County could have been in much worse shape.

"I think we've been very fortunate in our community that over the last few years, Union County has always been one of the lowest in the state as far as unemployment," he said. "We've been very fortunate because we have the industry and the jobs that are in this county.

"Our goal for the next year is to maintain the best we can, and continue to try to provide the safest and best community services that we can," he continued. "Eventually as things on the national level improve, hopefully they will do so locally as well."