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Macedonia -- With Issue 1 failing by a nearly three-to-one margin on Aug. 2, City Council held back-to-back meetings to discuss proposed income tax measures for the Nov. 8 ballot.
This week's edition of the News Leader went to press too early to publish the outcome of a scheduled Aug. 9 meeting, at which three measures were scheduled to be considered for placement on the Nov. 8 ballot.
See www.the-news-leader.com for a report on that meeting.
As of press time, City Council had met Aug. 5 and Aug. 8 in order to meet Summit County Board of Elections filing deadline for Nov. 8, and while all Council members agree road projects are a priority and much needed, Council was not on the same page as to how to fund the repairs.
Issue 1 would have raised the city's income tax rate from 2 to 2.5 percent for five years, after which it was to decrease to 2.25 percent. The measure would have brought Macedonia $3 million annually the first five years and was earmarked for stormwater and road projects.
Issue 1 failed 1,458 to 498, according to unofficial results.
The first measure under consideration by Council is a 0.25 percent continuous income tax increase for road improvements and stormwater projects. If put on the ballot and approved, it would take effect in January 2017.
The city's income tax rate is currently 2 percent, but is scheduled to drop to 1.75 percent in June 2017 when a recreation tax expires. If voters approve the increase, the city's tax rate would be 2.25 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2017.
Two other measures up for discussion ask voters to renew the 0.25 percent income tax earmarked for recreation that is set to expire in June 2017. The renewal would be for 20 years, according to the legislation.
One of the renewal measures states the renewal would be effective if the 0.25 percent increase is approved by voters.
The other renewal measure states the renewal would be effective if the 0.25 percent increase is not approved by voters. If the increase fails and the renewal is approved, the city income tax rate would be 2 percent after June 2017.
According to Councilor Kevin Bilkie, the 0.25 percent income tax increase would bring $7.5 million to the city in a five-year span and allow the city to repair roads in poor and very poor condition. Bilkie suggested Aug. 8 that instead of having a continuous levy, the quarter-percent could be made to drop off after an agreed upon number of years and at that time the city could re-evaluate. He asked Engineer Joe Gigliotti to "crunch the numbers" to see if the city could feasibly take care of the worst roads within seven years.
Bilkie also said he supports asking residents to renew the 0.25 percent levy for the recreation center because it is not a new tax and the funds are needed to upgrade the facility.
Councilor Sylvia Hanneken disagreed and proposed that Council just seek to renew the 0.25 percent recreation tax for 10 years to keep the current tax rate at 2 percent, but split the funds of the levy 80 percent towards roads and 20 percent towards the rec center.
The current recreation levy brings the city a little over $1 million each year, according to Finance Director Rhonda Hall.
Hanneken said with building payments for the rec center ending at the end of 2016, the city would be able to use $800,000 from the tax renewal for roads and dedicate $200,000 to the parks and the recreation center.
However, according to Hall, under Hanneken's 80/20 split proposal, the rec center would fall nearly $400,000 short each year.
Hanneken's response was that the city should consider increasing fees for membership and programs.
Recreation Director Angela Manley said the recreation department is not in a position to raise fees.
She said last time the city raised fees, membership plummeted and Council was forced to rescind the increase.
"I won't be in a position to increase fees when I can't offer anything new. It's already been said that our fees are too high," Manley said.
Hanneken said she doesn't support a new tax on residents when the city doesn't have a clear-cut plan in place for road projects.
Councilor David Engle said he won't support a levy because he feels it is too soon to do so after a rejected levy.
"We have to be cognizant of the fact that a levy not too different from this was just resoundedly rejected," Engle said at the Aug. 5 meeting. "From a political stand this may not be the smartest thing to do ... it is offensive to the residents."
Council President Nick Molnar said the city needs to address road problems one way or another.
"By not addressing it, not bringing it back and not trying to find solutions to it, we are acting like it doesn't exist," Molnar said.
Engle and Hanneken also said Aug. 8 Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District money can be used to borrow up to $4 million for stormwater issues.
But Councilor Jan Tulley disagreed and said she cautions Council to remember that NEORSD has to approve what stormwater projects the city uses the funds for and that seeking loans for projects obligates the city to repay that debt.
Briana Barker: 330-541-9432