Rocky Fork Enterprise

Tax issue back on the ballot Nov. 5

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Gahanna City Council voted 5-1 to approve a resolution July 15 to go back on the ballot in November in an effort to get more residents to decide on an income-tax proposal that would increase the tax rate from 1.5 to 2.5 percent.

If the voters approve the measure, council would adjust the tax credit they pay to another municipality from 83.3 to 100 percent.

Council members Stephen Renner, Ryan Jolley, Brian Larick, David Samuel and Brandon Wright voted in favor of placing the issue on the Nov. 5 ballot. Karen Angelou dissented, and Beryl Anderson was absent.

Angelou said she believes the issue shouldn't be on the ballot. She also dissented when the same measure was placed on the May ballot.

Resident Jeannie Hoffman asked why council and the mayor wouldn't accept the outcome of the May 7 vote.

"In January, the people calling for a November vote were disregarded," she said. "All of you were confident the voters would be heard in May."

She said voters took the time to educate themselves in May, and it's offensive to act as though their vote didn't count.

"The voters have spoken, and I'm sorry you've chosen not to listen," Hoffman said.

Resident Alicia Holloway said she has been attending council meetings and asking questions since the defeat of the May issue. She said she still doesn't know how much additional revenue is needed for the Gahanna she wants.

Holloway suggested a levy for a specific use, such as road repairs or pool repairs, to clearly indicate where taxpayer dollars would be spent.

She said she also disagrees with the 100-percent tax credit.

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said she takes responsibility for the issue initially going on the May ballot.

"I thought, 'Silly me; if we put a money issue on the ballot, people would come out and vote,' " she said. "I was wrong. We had coffees and public meetings. We had good attendance at public meetings.

"Twelve percent of residents came out and voted. I'm astounded by that. I will be the rest of my life. I'm personally not ready to live in a city where 12 percent make the decision for everybody."

Stinchcomb said a tax increase could be dedicated to a specific need, such as police, streets or the parks.

"We could probably do that for today," she said. "It's about the future. I think flexibility is needed. I'm asking council to put this on the ballot and hope the majority of our citizens will come out this time."

Jolley said he personally doesn't want to live in a Gahanna that was presented a few weeks ago, that shows the closure of city facilities and various reductions.

"For those who come in and say cut more, cut more, where do you want us to cut?" he asked. "There's not much left. I wholeheartedly support putting this back on the ballot. Whether it was the right decision to put on in May is irrelevant. It would be irresponsible not to put this before voters again. Starting in January, we will start making severe cuts to the quality of life. There's no gray area. It's black or white."

He said the credit issue and tax structure are a state issue.

"We elect state reps who don't act," he said. "A huge percent of people work outside this city. Those living and working in city limits are awarded an artificially low tax rate.

"I've talked to many people since May who support this. I think we'll all be sorry if we turn into the Gahanna laid out a few weeks ago."

Renner said he wouldn't settle for a decision made by 12 percent who voted in May. He said he decided to run for council to represent his side of Gahanna.

"The creation of suburban America is based on higher quality of life," Renner said. "We want something higher quality than next door."

In other council action, the long-debated rezoning concerning the Meadowbrooke subdivision was approved at 5593 Havens Corners Road.

Thirteen homes on 3.9 acres are planned by developer Doug Maddy. The existing zoning on the property is limited-overlay, single-family residential, and the approved rezoning is the same, but with changes to the limited-overlay and development plan.

The property was zoned in late 2006 as residential-overlay district to permit a nine-lot single-family subdivision with a preservation-zone setback area.

Several residents spoke against the proposal, citing untested stormwater management practices, such as rain gardens. They also took issue with the higher density and increased traffic. Petitions against the development were submitted to council.

Larick voted against the rezoning.

"I think there are better solutions for the property," he said.

Council also approved a contract with the Fraternal Order of Police that had been postponed following the failure of the May ballot issue.

Larick said it has been determined the contract could be accommodated in the budget.

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