City council again spars over commuter tax credit


As it has at nearly every city council meeting for months, the idea of a commuter tax got contentious at Monday night’s Marysville City Council work session.
Council met Monday night to discuss portions of the strategic plan, including finance and quality customer service.
Council member Aaron J. Carpenter asked that the phrase “Commuter Tax Credit” be added to the finance update.
Finance Director Brad Lutz said he understands what Carpenter wants, but the strategic plan is not the place for the commuter tax credit discussion.
“I feel like when we put specifics in there, we are kind of limiting ourselves,” Lutz said, noting the strategic plan is for big ideas, not specific pieces of legislation.
Carpenter said the phrase could go nearly anywhere as long as residents of his ward could go to the document and find it using a quick search function. He said it would suffice to include the phrase in a list of options to be considered.
“That would calm Ward One considerably,” Carpenter said.
Council member Deb Groat said she was opposed to adding the language to the plan. She said that until council agrees to consider it, continuing to ask is “political posturing.”
Carpenter said he was under the impression that council had agreed to consider the idea at a later point based on conversations held in June.
Groat compared considering the credit to her considering a nose job or Botox injections.
“It ain’t gonna happen,” she said.
Council member Mark Reams was more diplomatic. He said that council is, “going to look at all the options” but said there is no need for the strategic plan to “get into the weeds.”
Mayor and Council President Henk Berbee said the plan needs to be for the entire the city, not just Ward One. Carpenter explained the credit would be for anyone who lives in but works outside the city. He said he has heard support for the credit from residents all over the city.
Council member Alan Seymour said he wanted to move on from the topic as he was “not seeing a lot of support” for including the tax credit in the strategic plan.
While Carpenter was ultimately the only council member to support the commuter tax credit, the idea of including a five-year fiscal analysis in the plan received strong support.
Under the strategic plan, a five-year comprehensive fiscal analysis will be performed during 2021. The analysis “will provide the necessary guidance to realize our vision.” According to the plan, looking at revenue and expenses, “will help determine both our future financial strategies as well as prioritizing expenditures.”
Reams said he thinks the analysis “is going to be a huge benefit for us.”
Officials said there are changes being made at the state level that will impact the city’s finances. Lutz said he continues to meet with city staff to discuss what that impact will mean for Marysville. He said he would present those findings soon to the city finance committee and the council.
Officials did question how much general fund and capitol reserve fund cash the city should have.
Lutz said that as long as the city has between three and five months of reserve, that is “within the happy place.” He said less could be a concern, but more is “a lot of money to be sitting on.”
The finance director said a large reserve protects a city if it has no revenue for a period.
“No one is going to be able to shut off the spigot like that,” Lutz said.
Human Resources Director Brian Dostanko added that too much money in reserve could hurt the city in union negotiations.
Reams said he is pleased with the city’s reserve of between three and five months.
“Where we are right now is a huge improvement over where we used to be,” Reams said.

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