Back the badge.
It’s a nice phrase, and something we all say we can get behind, but often when it comes right down to it, such as reaching into our pockets to literally put our money where our mouth is, that’s when it gets a little sticky.
It took almost an entire year to do it, a little bit of change in members and some negotiation, but city council took the step to better fund Napoleon safety services.
This week, council approved the final reading to lower the income tax reciprocity credit to 70%. This means those living in Napoleon but who work elsewhere and pay income tax there, will now also have to pay 30% of Napoleon’s 1.5% income tax.
Under the previous arrangement, those residents paid nothing to the city coffers.
This is not a new issue. It has come up a couple of different times in my tenure at the Northwest Signal, usually when city officials begin to notice funds are drying up.
They’ll then ask the city administrators to start looking at different options for more revenue, and one of the first ones to come up is the income tax credit.
Those who are new on council typically find the concept interesting, but it doesn’t take long for the complaints to come in from residents who will be impacted, and then the idea loses appeal very fast.
That’s why, when the issue came up again at the beginning of this year, I would have been homeless at the end of this month because I would have bet the proverbial ranch (our house is ranch-style, if that counts) that it would not happen again.
And, early in the year, I was looking golden. A recommendation came out of a city committee for council to reduce the income tax credit by 50%, but council voted against having legislation brought to it to make it happen.
The money wasn’t being sought just to fluff up the general fund, but would have been earmarked for a police dispatcher position, four firefighter positions and to fix roads around the city.
A few months went by and a planned public hearing on the issue was eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Napoleon put a survey on its website.
Of course, the results came back that most people who took the survey were against paying taxes to the city where they live and receive those emergency services.
It didn’t end there, though, which is what I would have predicted.
City officials reduced the credit amount they were asking for to 30% and took out that the funds would go to roads.
Instead, most of the money will go toward those safety services discussed before. There will be a small amount also directed to the parks and recreation department, but that’s due to the way the income tax legislation is written.
During the most recent votes, a couple of council members actually argued whether the 30% was going to be sufficient. They feared, and probably with good reason, that only using that number may require them to come back to the well in the near future and lower the credit even more.
In fact, that’s a very good possibility. Prior to the last vote, City Manager Joel Mazur said that was the bare amount needed to get the goal done.
Salaries and fringe benefits tend to go up every year, typically 1-3%, and it doesn’t seem like emergency calls are going to go down anytime soon. In fact, they’ve been increasing every year for the last several.
Recent councils have also taken steps to hopefully keep the reduction at 30% or perhaps, though unlikely, even move the credit back closer to 100%.
There have been various housing startups over the last year or two, and it is hoped that will draw more residents into the city who also work here.
Napoleon has long been a bedroom community, where many of its residents go to work elsewhere and come home at night, but maybe that can change a bit to having more live and work here.
It’s not easy for public officials to ask those who put them into office to pony up more money, but this time council put its money where its mouth is and truly did back the badges worn by city police and fire personnel.