Rocky Fork Enterprise

Gahanna City Council moves to place tax hike on Nov. 5 ballot

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Gahanna City Council is proceeding with legislation to go back to the voters in November with the same income-tax proposal that was defeated narrowly in May.

Council member David Samuel, during a July 8 council committee meeting, recommended that council move forward with the ballot issue.

At issue will be an increase in the city's income-tax rate from 1.5 to 2.5 percent. If the measure is approved by voters, council will adjust the tax credit residents pay to another municipality from 83.3 to 100 percent.

Samuel said resident Tom Wester made many good points during the July 1 council meeting when he pointed to the increase in costs to maintain more roads, as well as the price of contractors and petroleum.

"The service center, if anyone drove to the service complex, looks like something from the second world war," Samuel said. "We've been letting it go and letting it go. We're probably in the worst shape than any other city. We need to get it back on the ballot and move on."

Council member Brian Larick said he favors allowing the electorate to make the decision.

Council member Stephen Renner said everyone knows how grim the presentation was regarding the future of the city without any revenue increase.

Marked for closure in 2015 are the city swimming pools, the Ohio Herb Education Center and senior center, among other reductions.

"It's a reality," Renner said. "I wholeheartedly agree the question needs to be back on the ballot. The citizens of Gahanna must come into play. If they come back and say, 'No way, Jose,' then so be it."

Council member Beryl Anderson said she, too, agrees that residents need to make the decision.

"It's the city they live in," she said. "It's what reality they choose. The November election, historically, you get more people to turn out. What kind of Gahanna do you want to live in? They have to decide the normal.

"No one likes to increase taxes. It's about this is our city and what do you want to do and the services that are provided here," she said. "Citizens will decide. I'm fiscally conservative, but the people need to decide what they want."

Samuel said any pro-levy group needs to be privately funded.

"We also need to separate the federal from the local government," he said. "Many people are irritated with the national (government). This is where we live, folks. We're directly affected."

Council member Brandon Wright said the levy legislation needs to provide details for residents.

"We have to point out to citizens what they're getting for it," he said. "This is what we're getting; here's where we're at. I think that's a valuable tool everyone needs to take a look at. That needs to be part of the legislation piece. People will have a concrete piece that this is what you're getting."

Council member Ryan Jolley said it's important to reiterate that council doesn't have the authority to raise taxes.

"It's our duty to give citizens that option," he said.

Jolley said it's obvious to recognize the need for additional revenue in the city to maintain an exceptional quality of life.

"If we want to keep Gahanna a destination, we need additional revenue," he said.

He said legislation would be introduced July 15 to place the tax measure on the November ballot, as well as an ordinance to increase the tax credit from 83.3 to 100 percent.

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said she has been working with city attorney Shane Ewald on ballot language.

"There has been a lot of conversation," she said. "A question that came up -- can we put the credit in the language?"

Ewald said the Franklin County Board of Elections doesn't allow compound questions.

"We can't have the tax increase and credit in the same language," he said.

The city faces an Aug. 7 deadline to place the measure on the fall ballot.

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