Councilman Jerry Kline chose a curious time to voice concern about Marion’s 2016 budget, questioning its approval, dubbed a “formality” by city clerk Tiffany Jeffrey, at Monday’s city council meeting.
Kline said he was trying to send a message.
“I was just trying to get the message out: We can’t keep raising taxes, utilities, rates, whatever,” he said. “I was just trying to get some of these people on either side of me thinking.”
Kline questioned language in the final budget ordinance that indicated a facet of the budget that’s been apparent but downplayed since the outset: The approved tax rate could increase or decrease pending a property valuation assessment, which will be completed in November.
Citizens could see their taxes increase, or decrease, despite the city’s budget “holding the line” on its proposed mill levy. The only figure locked in is the total dollar amount Marion will receive from its citizens.
Why, then, did Kline wait until the “formality” stage of the budget process to disagree? He didn’t think it’d be worth it.
“I don’t think it does any good,” he said. “I’m the only one that ever does it, so you think, ‘What good is it?’”
Kline’s protest at Monday’s meeting was met head-on by administrator Roger Holter.
“Mr. Kline, you did not raise the rate,” Holter said. “You gave a specific instruction to your administration to keep the rate even.”
The exchange between Kline and Holter continued, with Kline defending his dissenting vote.
“Maybe there’s other ways to look at it,” he said.
“I’m open to any other proposals,” Holter said.
“I can give them to you, but not right now,” Kline said.
With that and a 4-1 vote, the 2016 budget cleared its final hurdle with the levy equal to last year’s — pending valuation.
It was the third consecutive council meeting in which Kline voiced opposition to council decisions beyond when it would be feasible to reverse any course of action.
“It takes courage to vote against the stream,” he said.
Kline voted Aug. 3 not to accept a grant to make improvements to East Park, which would net the city about $221,000 in funds but cost it about $22,000. The city had already discussed, applied for, and received the grant before Kline’s voiced dissent in the form of a “nay” vote.
He then voted against the job description for a parks and recreation director position Aug. 17 without voicing opposition prior to the vote. He explained his vote afterward by saying he didn’t think oversight of the cemetery was a necessary part of the job.
Councilman Chad Adkins had openly questioned its inclusion at a discussion before the council even had the official task of crafting a new department, but a concrete decision was never reached, and Holter kept cemetery responsibilities in the job description.
In other business:
- Four zoning modification ordinances were presented to council by zoning administrator Terry Jones. Ordinances regarding definitions, residential overlay district, and building permits were approved, while an ordinance regarding illuminated signs was sent back to zoning planning commission to rework some language.
- Members of Utility Service Group presented to council on the technique of pipe cleaning known as “ice pigging.” The presentation and ensuing discussion lasted about 45 minutes, but no decision was made regarding whether the city would employ the practice to clean its water mains.