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Macedonia City Council places a renewal rec center levy and an increase on November ballot

by Briana Barker | Reporter Published: August 17, 2016 12:00 AM

Macedonia -- Exactly one week after voters turned down a 0.5 percent income tax increase, City Council voted to place a smaller, 0.25 percent, 10-year increase on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Council also voted 3-2 on Aug. 9 to ask residents to renew the 0.25 percent recreation center levy, which has been in place for 20 years and is set to expire next June.

If both measures pass, the city's income tax rate will be 2.25 percent for the next 10 years.

Council OK'd both issues 3-2, with Councilors David Engle and Sylvia Hanneken voting against, and Councilors Kevin Bilkie, Nick Molnar and Jan Tulley voting in favor.

If approved by voters, the 0.25 percent income tax increase would be earmarked to pay for road repairs.

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Engle said he isn't supporting the measure because he doesn't feel the city had a solid enough plan in place to go to the voters and it is too soon after the three-to-one failure of Issue 1, which was rejected 1,458 to 498 on Aug. 2, according to unofficial results.

Molnar said he feels Council did its "due diligence" in trying to examine options. He added voters told the city the 0.5 percent increase wasn't going to work for them, so this is another option.

"This is a problem that is not going away that we have to deal with," he said. "It's something we have to address now, we don't have time to wait any longer."

The levy is expected to bring approximately $1.5 million each year to the city for 10 years, beginning in January 2017. Initially, Council discussed a continuous levy but decided to limit the levy to 10 years so the need could be re-evaluated at a later time.

Council members who supported the measure said they recognize the levy won't be enough to fix all of the roads but added the city can begin to address the worst roads if the added funds are approved.

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Stormwater projects still remain a question mark as Finance Director Rhonda Hall said the city can expect to receive approximately $200,000 each year from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. She said the funds cannot be used to cover bonds, where the city would borrow money to cover stormwater projects, because NEORSD will not support projects that cost more than what the city has in its NEORSD account.

In addition, she said, the city must first seek the sewer district's approval before earmarking any of those funds for stormwater projects.

Regarding the 0.25 percent renewal of the recreation center tax, Hall said the renewal could bring anywhere from $1 million to $1.5 million per year for the rec center. She said the rec center costs $1.38 million to operate each year.

Molnar said after the failure of the last levy attempt he feels Council needs to do more to educate residents about the levy and "debunk lies and misinformation" that he felt were put out about the last levy.

In a 4-1 vote, Council rejected an alternative measure proposed by Hanneken which would have asked voters to renew the 0.25 percent recreation center tax, but would have earmarked 80 percent of the proceeds for fund road work and 20 percent for the rec center.

Recreation Director Angela Manley said Hanneken's proposal, which would have brought the rec center $200,000 annually, was "significantly flawed."

"It didn't even cover annual operations," Manley said. "It did not provide any improvements and zero growth."

Manley said the rec center has to operate as a business and as such must follow a business model by remaining competitive within the fitness industry.

"People have choices and they do shop around for fitness centers," Manley said. "Our only options to close the gap this proposal would have created would have been to reduce services and hours and raise fees."

She said during a meeting the previous night that raising fees was not something the recreation department was prepared to do without being able to offer members additional services.

Hanneken said she believes the "fundamentals can be addressed within the 2 percent" tax rate and she intends to stand with the residents who are against a tax increase.

"There is no evidence that a [additional] 0.25 percent is needed," Hanneken said. "I would have supported a quarter percent levy dedicated to roads, and address the rec center later."

She added she felt her proposal was a compromise to include some funding for the rec center.

Bilkie said he is disappointed that all of Council could not agree on a solution and he would have liked to have seen a 5-0 vote on both measures Council approved.

Mayor Joe Migliorini told the News Leader Aug. 10 if the tax increase fails, the city will have to look at making "tough decisions" such as increasing the millage for real estate tax, assessing residents for road repairs or removing the tax credit.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432




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