Stinchcomb hints at tax rate hike, 'team effort'
Without additional revenue sources in the future, Gahanna residents won't continue to enjoy the same quality of life they have today.
That's the bottom line Mayor Becky Stinchcomb gave council during Dec. 10 discussions about the 2013 appropriations.
She said Gahanna residents have invested in the city over decades, providing such amenities as a quality parks and recreation.
"We have to talk to citizens about that investment," she said. "I'm prepared to come in early January (to talk) about specifics. If we can't find new revenue sources, this isn't sustainable."
Stinchcomb has said residents need to decide what type of Gahanna they want, and they could make that decision at the ballot through a proposed city income-tax increase.
She repeatedly notes that Gahanna has a city income tax of 1.5 percent that hasn't changed since voters first approved it in 1977.
It's one of the lowest in Franklin County.
Council member Beryl Anderson asked if capital improvement priority requests are sustainable.
Stinchcomb said two projects that are partially funded for 2013 would be constructed in following years. She said the Carpenter Road bridge is one of them.
Design and engineering, at a cost of $40,000, are planned in 2013, followed by $75,000 in right-of-way acquisition and $200,000 in construction in 2014. The project would replace an aging bridge with a new culvert.
City engineer Karl Wetherholt said the design plans would be good for five years, and the project has a potential $160,000 Ohio Public Works Commission grant/loan.
"Starting that (project) won't be a problem," Stinchcomb said.
The other project that would begin next year and continue in 2014 and 2016 is Hamilton Road central (Carpenter Road to U.S. Route 62), completing the widening of Hamilton Road through Gahanna, as has been planned since 1996, with Franklin County as a partner.
A total of $180,000 is planned in the 2013 appropriations for design and engineering for the project, $520,000 for right-of-way acquisition in 2014 and $1.5 million for construction in 2016.
In addition to the road widening, it would provide pedestrian and bicycle connectivity between the northern and southern halves of the city.
"We have been putting aside money for years to get this done," Stinchcomb said. "All but about $1.5 million would be funded by a grant."
Other priorities in the appropriations are for maintenance and ongoing work, Stinchcomb said.
"If you're asking if everything we're doing is sustainable, no," she said. "We have been using our savings. We've talked about funding sources dropping off. I don't believe we are sustainable at this funding level. We can get by a few years."
Anderson asked if Stinchcomb could rank first-priority projects.
"You have to look at your core," Stinchcomb said. "If money gets tight, you look at health, safety and welfare."
She said she would govern the city differently if she weren't looking at new revenue sources.
"It's a team effort going forward," Stinchcomb said. "I'm proud of the work we've done this year. We have documentation that's unprecedented in the city, with concrete information. There are so many factors in the economy that affect us.
"No one has a crystal ball," she said. "I think we put forward a conservative budget that uses excess reserves for times such as this."
Council is scheduled to vote on the 2013 appropriations during the Jan. 2, 2013, council meeting.