The city's budget for the next two years, as it stands now, contains some increased taxes and fees for Ashland residents, which is never popular, but the City Council is trying to balance the impact on property owners and non-owners alike. And income from marijuana taxes could help soften the blow.
The new revenue will cover the cost of adding five officers to the police department, something the council committed itself to do before the budget was complete. We supported that move, and still support it, because Ashland needs to have four officers on duty on every shift, and the new hires will make that possible.
Council members were divided over whether the $550,000 annual cost should come from increased property taxes, higher utility fees or a combination of both. The council will make the final decision in a special meeting next week.
Public safety benefits everyone in town, and everyone should contribute toward that service. Utility fees hit every resident who uses those utilities, while property taxes target homeowners and landlords — who pass on that cost in the rents they charge.
Councilors who expressed a desire to spread the burden over higher- and lower-income residents are on the right track. And so are those who looked to marijuana tax proceeds. Ashland's share of the state tax is intended to support local law enforcement, but the amount won't be known until September. Tax and utility increases should be reduced as much as those marijuana tax proceeds allow.