The proposed budget on the table for approval by the City Council would raise the city’s millage rate from 6.8 mills to 7.98 mills, an increase of about 18 percent, but several members of the council said Wednesday they are still trying to decide how much the increase should be, or if one is needed.
Within in the present version of the budget, all city employees would get a cost-of-living raise, the Canton Police Department would receive $200,000 in additional funding, and $500,000 would go to the city fire department to hire nine new city firefighters.
During the hearing last Thursday, Canton residents and Councilman Glen Cummins strongly criticized the tax increase and other members of the council’s insistence on hiring the new fire personnel, primarily because Canton Fire Chief Dean Floyd hasn’t requested the employees.
After hearing the concerns, Councilmen Bill Bryan and John Beresford, who had previously advocated the tax increase, said they were rethinking things. The two also said they would give thought to changes Cummins suggested to the budget, which would leave the millage rate at 6.8 for 2014.
Cummins said this could be accomplished by not hiring the firemen, not giving certain city staff members — such as City Manager Scott Wood, Police Chief Robert Merchant and Fire Chief Dean Floyd — the same 3 percent cost-of-living raise as other employees and taking $250,000 from surplus funds to pad the budget.
Bryan said Wednesday that he is still trying to decide on what his final position on the budget will be.
“I’m still turning it around in my mind, listening to people,” he said.
But Bryan said he personally hasn’t had many residents to listen to in the current budget process.
“I’ve received a grand total of three phone calls during this whole process (and) zero emails,” Bryan said. “The lack of public input has been kind of a surprise.”
Even still, the councilman said “There’s no doubt we could get by without raising” the millage rate.
Bryan said the unused funds Cummins suggested pulling from to pad the budget were accumulated “because we’ve been responsible,” and put the council in a good position to potentially not raise taxes.
Beresford also said Wednesday the city has done well to accumulate the funds.
“The city staff has done an outstanding job,” he said. “They have been good stewards of the taxpayer money.”
And because of that fund balance, which sits more than$2 million, Beresford said the council has the option to not increase taxes, or at least to not raise the rate to 7.98 mills, as previously considered.
“I don’t see that need now (for 7.98 mills),” he said.
But exactly what tax rate ends up being will be decided tonight, Beresford said.
“(I’m) just stepping back and looking at it,” he said.