The Administration of Mayor Chris Beutler today asked the District Court to issue a writ of mandamus to require the City Council to set the property tax rate necessary to balance the lawfully adopted City budget.
In August, Mayor Beutler vetoed a 2016-2018 budget passed by the City Council on a four-to-three vote. The City Council did not have five votes to override the Mayor's veto. The City Charter states that because the Council did not pass another budget in the time required by the Charter and City ordinance, the Administration's budget is the lawfully adopted budget and is the basis for the property tax rates for the biennial period.
Yesterday, the City Council did not follow the law spelled out in the Charter and instead set the property tax rate at 32.194 cents per $100 of valuation. That rate does not provide the revenue needed to balance the Administration's budget. The writ of mandamus would require the Council to set the rate at 33.366 cents per $100 of valuation, the rate needed to balance the adopted budget.
Mayor Beutler repeated that he could not in good conscience sign the City Council's version of the budget. The Council's budget reductions included funding to address the Emerald Ash Borer and for a seventh ambulance. The Council budget also delayed debt service payments for street lights. Beutler said those actions did not eliminate the costs, but pushed them to the future, increasing the cost to taxpayers.
"The budget passed by the Council majority was fiscally irresponsible and did not meet the needs of the City," Mayor Beutler said. "The majority avoided tough choices by kicking the can down the road in a way that threatened the City's future financial stability. When the Council was unable to override my veto, the City Charter spelled out a very clear path for lawfully resolving a budget dispute, a path that is designed to move the City forward. We are simply asking the Council to follow the law."
If the Council majority reconsiders its levy vote or if Court finds in the Administration's favor, the Council would need to vote again on the property tax levy. The Beutler Administration will reintroduce the 33.366-cent levy to the Council September 26, with a public hearing and vote October 3. The Lancaster County Board is scheduled to meet October 11 to set the overall County property tax rate.