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Budget passes on 3-2 vote

Staff writer

Marion resident Darvin Markley quizzed city council members about next year’s budget before they voted 3-2 to approve it.

Mayor David Mayfield, Zach Collett, and Kevin Burkholder voted for the 2024 budget, which exceeds the revenue-neutral rate by 9 mills. Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel and councilman Jerry Kline voted against it, citing concerns about spending.

“Kevin, could you tell me what that’s for?” Markley asked Burkholder about an increase in the city’s community enrichment budget. “Was there discussion on that?”

“No,” Burkholder answered.

Markley asked Mayor David Mayfield various questions about the budget for streets and alleys.

“Is this for fixing potholes?” Markley asked.

“I don’t know,” Mayfield said. “Probably.”

Collett then told Markley: “Mr. Markley, this is public comment. This isn’t public back-and-forth. If you wish to address us, that’s fine, but we’re not going to sit here and expect to answer every question that you have.”

Markley responded: “Excuse me there, Zach, this is a public hearing” and cited a state law that says the purpose of such a hearing is “answering and hearing objections of taxpayers relating to the proposed budget and for the purpose of considering amendments to such proposed budget.”

“We don’t have that statute in front of us,” Mayfield said. “I don’t even know what it says.”

“You’re not informed of what you’re going to be approving,” Markley said.

“We all went through the budget. We all looked at the budget,” Mayfield said.

“But you can’t answer specifically what the increases are for — is that right?” Markley asked.

Markley then began to ask about a proposed budget increase for the police department, but an alarm on an iPhone rang. Mayfield told Markley his five-minute limit to talk was up.

Marion resident Ruth Lange told council members that because of increased property values, “there should be plenty of money coming in.”

Marion resident Ryan Newell asked why a 2-mill increase was necessary for the city’s historical museum.

City Administrator Brogan Jones said the building has a “slew of issues” including HVAC, foundation, and roof issues.

Newell later said he can’t go to the museum because of accessibility challenges.

Marion minister Jeremiah Lange spoke in favor of the budget.

“We had an independent person tell us our reserves are too low,” he said. “We had an independent person tell us we need to prepare for the future. “

“I listened to Scot Loyd, too,” Ruth Lange said, referring to a consultant the city hired to guide it through the budget process. “I understand need to get reserves up. But we have to hold down on spending, or we won’t have reserves.”

The city needs a rainy day fund, Roger Hannaford said.

“It might not ever rain again, but it might,” he said, turning to the packed audience. “I hope it does.”

Reserves, he said, would “put Marion in a better position for the future. I think we all want a better future and a brighter future for Marion.”

“I agree with that, but do we have to do it all at once?” Herbel asked.

Mayfield said “we need to have the funds available to operate this city for three months” in case of an emergency such as a tornado.

Last modified Sept. 9, 2023

 

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