GOSHEN — Rental property owners don’t have to worry about their registration fees increasing for now, as the city council voted 4-3 against the proposed increase at Tuesday night’s meeting, March 19.
Tabled from previous meetings, the proposed amendment to the city’s building department fee ordinance would have raised the biennial registration from $30 to $40.
Council president Jim McKee was the most vocal opponent of the fee increase over the last several meetings, saying he didn’t believe the council should increase the fee just months after raising it from $25 to $30.
McKee said Tuesday night he also thought the council should review the building department fee structure, noting that hotels pay $75 annually for registration despite having far more rooms.
He also questioned whether the city was paying attention to mobile home rentals, but community development director Mark Brinson said the city already catches most of those.
“The owners (of the rental properties) aren’t getting any added benefit from the extra 1 percent they’re paying in property taxes,” councilman Brett Weddell stated. “Why is it such a bad thing to fund the shortcomings of this through property taxes when those properties are automatically paying an additional 1 percent in property taxes?”
Councilman Jeremy Stutsman, who owns several rental properties, said he didn’t think the entire population’s property taxes should cover a program specifically meant for rentals.
“Speaking as somebody who pays the 2 percent — and on some of my other properties I pay 3 percent — I just don’t see that it’s my neighbor’s job to cover my business expenses,” Stutsman explained.
Mayor Allan Kauffman said he had been approached by a council member, who asked him, “Because we got a little bit more money last year than we anticipated and because we didn’t spend all the budget last year and we do show a balance at the end of this year now, if things come in OK, would we be willing to pass the ordinance but delay the effective date until Jan. 1, 2014?”
Councilwoman Julia Gautsche made a motion that would change the effective date, and though Gautsche’s motion passed, the overall ordinance did not, leaving the fee at $30, at least for the time being.
Kauffman said after Tuesday’s meeting that the issue may come up again nearer to the time the city begins working on the 2014 budget.
Another long-standing issue for the council brought up Tuesday was establishment of council districts.
The council had continually tabled the issue since its first appearance in December 2012, but was presented with three additional options to the original proposal.
Much of the public’s discussion on the topic of redistricting directed council to make the choice.
A committee of elected officials and non-elected citizens had convened previously to review the different options. David Daugherty, one of the members of the committee, said the decision was realistically a political one that really only the council could decide on.
Resident Fred Buttell said the process had been “blown out of proportion,” explaining that it is the council’s responsibility to make the districts, not the public’s.
The issue of redistricting remained unresolved, however, as McKee said he wished for more time to work on his own proposal and the ability to distribute it to the rest of council for consideration.
The council then voted in favor of tabling the district ordinance until the April 9 meeting.
Council’s last big moves Tuesday night included beginning the process of annexing two properties into the city.
The first, referred to as the U.S. 33 (Elkhart Road)-Wings Etc. area, is on the southwest side of U.S. 33 and northwest of Ferndale Road, near the Meijer store. The second property includes Clover Trails, south of Goshen Middle School.
Council accepted the fiscal plans for both areas Tuesday night, but could only pass the annexation ordinances on first reading.