MUNROE FALLS -- The city's charter review commission has done its job and now it is up to City Council.

Council gave first reading on June 20 to ordinances related to four recommendations for amendments to the city's charter that the commission made in early June. Among the amendments: allowing the city to change its income tax credit without voter approval and to eliminate the city's three Council wards.

Council scheduled a June 27 public workshop to discuss the recommendations, starting at 7:30 p.m. in Council chambers.

The commission began meeting weekly in mid-April. The charter requires the mayor to appoint seven city residents who are registered voters, with Council's approval, to form a commission every five years to review the charter and make recommendations for amendments.

Council must decide which recommendations will go before voters by Aug. 9, the deadline for filing ballot issues with the Summit County Board of Elections for the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

The four recommendations include:

Eliminating a requirement that says changes in the city's income tax credit can only be made with voter approval.

The tax credit currently is at 100 percent, meaning that residents who work in a community that has the same or higher local income tax rate as Munroe Falls' 2.25 percent do not pay the Munroe Falls tax. Residents paying less than 2.25 percent to another community would pay the difference between the two tax rates to Munroe Falls.

Mayor James Armstrong has said the city is not currently planning to reduce the tax credit, but the proposed charter change would allow city officials to make a change in the future if faced with a financial crisis, such as the one the city faced prior to voter approval of a 0.25 percent income tax increase and a 2.8-mill police levy in May.

Councilor Mike Barnes, however, told the commission at its final meeting June 13 that he opposes raising taxes without voter approval.

Eliminate the city's three wards and make all seven Council seats at-large positions, rather than the current four at-large and three ward representatives.

Commission members say they do not believe the city, with a population of only about 5,000 residents, is large enough to justify having wards.

Council gave first reading to two ordinances in connection with this recommendation that together make identical amendments to two sections of the charter.

Reduce the number of representatives on the city's park board from nine to five members, the level that it was at in the past, beginning Jan. 1, 2019, Council's representative to the park board would be a voting member of the board.

Commission members said they chose to include this recommendation because five members may be more appropriate for a city the size of Munroe Falls.

Councilor Chris Ritzinger, who serves as Council's park board representative, said board members want Council's representative to be a voting member but oppose the reduction.

"They want to stay at nine members, not reduce," said Ritzinger.

Authorize the city's law director to make changes to the charter, such as fixing typographical errors. Such changes would still be subject to Council approval and cannot alter the "construction, meaning, substance, or intent of the charter as adopted and amended by the people."

Commission members have said this is a "housekeeping" move that is modeled on a similar measure in Stow's charter.

City Law Director Tom Kostoff, who advised the commission during its deliberations, thanked the commission June 20.

"Clearly they spent a great deal of time and effort on this and we should be very grateful for their service," said Kostoff.


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