Rocky Fork Enterprise

City leaders reflect on levy defeat, mull future plans

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Gahanna City Council members will make decisions about cuts and budgeting following a slim defeat of a proposed income-tax rate increase May 7.

Issue 4, a proposal to increase the city's income-tax rate from 1.5 to 2.5 percent, was defeated by 51.66 percent of the electorate -- 1,935 voting no and 1,811 voting yes -- according to unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections.

Council president Stephen Renner said Gahanna residents typically are very united in their thinking.

"The fact that the vote was so close suggests that some of the voters may have not understood the true impact of this issue," Renner said. "For example, we currently show an $8 million shortfall beginning in 2014. Furthermore, our choice in presenting this issue in May was driven by the need to meet the state's budget deadline for 2014 by July 1.

"It was our hope that a successful passage of Issue 4 would then have allowed us to show how we could meet our budget obligations by the state mandated deadline."

Renner said council is left with some serious questions to answer, such as what immediate cuts are necessary to ensure a sustainable budget. He said council also must consider what capital projects need to be delayed and what city services need to be reduced or eliminated.

"As council president, I believe my colleagues have held the line on spending this year while investing in appropriate projects and assets where feasible," he said. "Now we plan to work closely with the mayor to identify cuts in the city's budget that are responsible and (hopefully) without jeopardizing essential safety and public services."

Renner said no one specific cut could regain the $8 million projected shortfall beginning in 2014.

"It will clearly require a mixture of appropriation reductions in many areas," he said. "I hope the cuts won't be painful to residents and businesses in Gahanna, but they will not be painless either."

Council vice president Ryan Jolley said he's disappointed by the election results.

"We on council have a lot of work to do over the coming months to make the tough decisions necessary to keep Gahanna functioning," he said. "The reality is that we asked the citizens for what was necessary to maintain the quality of life we have enjoyed for several decades."

Jolley said he still firmly believes that a 2.5-percent tax rate with a 100-percent credit is what the city needs to remain a viable community.

"We need to continue to engage our citizens in the process and really ask what kind of community they want Gahanna to be," he said.

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