By Sean Rice
Celina needs more money, and residents may be asked to dig a little deeper for the cause.
Don Kohnen, a Celina resident who regularly attends the twice-monthly city council meetings, told city officials meeting Monday there is no doubt in his mind an income tax hike is "a very serious consideration" and "a matter of time constraint."
Council members took the opportunity opened by Kohnen to discuss city income and the need to discuss it before the deadline for putting an issue on the November ballot expires.
Council member Angie King said she has asked her colleagues several times in the past few months for a finance committee meeting to look at the city's position, for the benefit of council's two newest members.
"My request has fallen on deaf ears," King said. "At this point I don't know what else to do." Freshman council member Chris Mohler announced that a meeting to examine the budget already has been set for July 14, but is that enough time to really examine the budget and act on supplementing it, he asked.
Members discussed if enough meetings can be held prior to the mid-August deadline for getting issues on the ballot for the November election.
After King and Mohler's comments, officials looked to Mayor Sharon LaRue for the answer.
"Who is supposed to bring up this recommendation that the city needs more money?" LaRue asked.
"As council, we're part-timers, administration does the day-to-day business," council member Rick Bachelor said. "We would like to have your recommendation."
The mayor said she will prepare information on the city's position, as well as several options geared at increasing the city's income.
"Let's get everything out on the table," Bachelor said.
Celina Auditor Pat Smith said in a memo to city officials Celina could have a negative balance in 2005 of near $533,000 if income is not raised or expenses reduced.
Council President Bill Sell said the city is "under the gun," if they want to make a move before the Aug. 19 ballot deadline.
Member Denny Smith said it is possible to come up with a financial plan by Aug. 19.
"I'm for giving the people of Celina the opportunity to voice their opinion," King said of an income tax vote.
"There are many, many ways to come up with an appropriate strategy, and some things are going to be rejected," Bachelor said.
Celina's income tax rate is 1 percent and out-of-city workers are given an income tax credit if taxes are paid to another city or village. Officials have in the past suggested increasing the tax or removing the credit. Those issues were not addressed directly Monday.
"Let's get on with the meeting and we'll wait for administration's next move," Sell said.
Residential customers may end up paying more for electric service if city council moves ahead with legislation restructuring the rate classes in the electric department.
Officials had little discussion Monday and decided to look at the ordinance more closely in committee. The changes were formed using information from a rate study that showed industrial users have higher per-unit costs while residential users have lower costs comparatively. It also showed larger users keep the city electric load consistent, which keeps cost down.
In a separate matter, council members set a public hearing for July 12 to gather comment on a proposal to change the zoning of several parcels at the intersection of Majorki Place and Irmscher Boulevard. Developers want to change the bare land from residential-office (R-O) to medium density residential (R-2) The change would allow homes and duplexes and disallow businesses.