A group of residents is asking Marysville City Council to create a committee to explore a possible commuter tax credit as well as other options for city financing.
At Monday night’s city council meeting, resident Jermaine Ferguson addressed council about what he called “the awful burden placed on our commuters.”
Currently, a Marysville resident who works in another community pays income tax in both the city where the income is generated and also 1.5% in Marysville where they live. Many communities extend commuters a tax credit to lighten the tax burden on their residents who work in another community.
Ferguson said he has listened for years as commuters express frustration about paying income tax in both the city where they work and in Marysville where they live. He said he also listened as residents who work and live in the community say everyone needs to pay their fair share where they live.
“In the perfect world, our residents would all work and live in the same community,” Ferguson said. “In the ideal world, residents in Ohio would only pay income taxes where they live and can elect representatives that they believe will maintain proper oversight of their tax monies. But the perfect world does not exist.”
He said economic development can be an answer to the commuter tax, but residential development locally is outpacing business development.
“Economic development executed correctly in the best long-term interest of our community does not occur with a blink of an eye,” Ferguson said. “So, we must continue the work of making Marysville a business-friendly city with the ultimate goal of providing our residents with options for suitable employment.”
Ferguson said he knows a commuter tax credit would create a shortfall in the 2021 budget. Finance Director Brad Lutz has said a 0.25% credit would cost the city approximately $640,000 on an annual basis.
“The budget of a growing city requires investments in our public safety and in our street and utility infrastructure,” Ferguson said. “So, the answer is not to implement a tax credit at a time when its implementation can cause more harm than good.”
He said council is elected, “for the sole purpose of solving problems and directing the city administration into our future.”
Ferguson asked council to create an ad hoc committee, “to study all forms of municipal taxation and to present recommendations to city council for a roadmap to solve the awful burden placed on our commuters and to fund public safety and infrastructure adequately.”
He said the solution should not be limited to or exclude a commuter tax credit.
“An unexpected answer may be birthed out of a proper study and thoughtful deliberation of city council and community stakeholders,” he said.
Resident Andrew Smarra also addressed council, asking for an ad hoc committee. He said the city is, “double-dipping our residents who have to commute.
“This is an issue that many people in our community are faced with, losing part of your income twice, especially in times like now where every dollar is important,” Smarra said.
He said he knows the solution will not be quick, “but it seems from the meetings I have attended, that council doesn’t seem to want to explore the idea of how we can tax responsibly, and still continue to have the amenities and quality of life we currently have.”
He said the ad hoc committee could, “look at different ways we can responsibly tax our residents and dig into the idea of a possible credit.
“We have great minds here in our community,” said Smarra. “Let’s put these minds together and see if we can find a solution.”
Council member Deb Groat said people choose where they work and where they live and to say that someone has to work somewhere different from where they live is a “ridiculous statement.”
“I am tired of the rhetoric that is inappropriate,” Groat said about talk of a commuter tax credit.
Council member Aaron J. Carpenter, who has consistently championed the idea of a commuter tax credit, said he was “very shocked, disappointed” in Groat’s comments. He said he believes there are many in Groat’s ward and around the city who would also be disappointed.
“Sometimes life comes at you fast and people move to Marysville and they have to work outside the city,” Carpenter said.
Resident Kathy Young agreed with Groat.
“It is a choice where you live and where you work,” Young said.
She said many communities do not give commuter tax credits and they “penalize” residents who choose to live and work in the city.
City Administrator Terry Emery said he thinks a committee is, “probably a good idea.
“I think we owe it to ourselves,” he said.
He added, “I don’t want us rushing into a decision that will handcuff us.”
Council member Mark Reams said the COVID-19 pandemic has, “exposed the city’s overreliance on income tax.”
While Carpenter pushed for a committee to be formed as soon as possible, Reams said it would be important to determine goals and outcomes before the committee meets, in order that it has some direction.
Council member J.R. Rausch said if the committee recommends a commuter tax credit, the matter should be given to voters, not just council.
“You might find out it might not pass,” Rausch told Carpenter.
He added, “it is the taxpayers’ dollars, let’s let them decide.”
Groat and Carpenter agreed.
“Whatever happens with a commuter credit affects everyone in this community,” Groat said.
Solicitor Tim Aslaner said the ad hoc committee is still a good idea because, “it is important to figure out exactly what to put on the ballot.”
Council members said they would talk about the committee at next week’s work session.
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