Rocky Fork Enterprise

Following levy defeat

Council welcomes public's input for appropriations

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Gahanna City Council incumbent winners Brian Larick and Stephen Renner are ready to get to work with the 2014 appropriations.

Meanwhile, newcomers Michael Schnetzer and Jamie Leeseberg look forward to the work ahead in January.

Larick, who defeated challenger Ryan Patrick Demro, 1,083 to 828 votes in Ward 3, said he's pleased with the outcome of the council races.

"While council always has people who are passionate about our community, the skills and capabilities of this council will be critical to working through our challenges," he said.

As for city finances, Larick said, council has fewer than 52 days for next year's appropriations to be passed.

"A great deal of work must occur in that window for us to pass viable and appropriate legislation for funding 2014," he said. "Transparency is a vital component of what I believe is important to how we manage the city."

Larick led the effort for public finance forums in 2012 as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the information available to both the public and council and to gather direct input from the public on items that are of particular interest or concern to citizens.

The public is invited to provide input on the 2014 appropriations during council's meetings Nov. 18, Dec. 2 and Dec. 16.

Larick said residents should attend to present items and recommendations.

"As elected officials, we are tasked with the final decisions," he said. "However, input from the public can bring insight and options that may not have been considered within the seven of us on council. The loss of Issue 17, in the near term, means we have to be absolutely focused on maintaining acceptable core services while making sure we maintain our capital assets."

In the long term, Larick said, council must determine how to manage the full spectrum of expectations in a way that could be maintained over the long haul.

Renner, current council president, defeated challenger Ray Kautz 895 to 642 votes in the race for Ward 1.

"I am so very humbled that the voters re-elected me to office," Renner said. "I ran a very positive campaign on both my experience and a shared vision of a sustainable city that can weather the tough economic storms we seem to be facing. I am very grateful to all my supporters and those who volunteered on my campaign and most importantly to all those who voted for me. Thank you for entrusting me with this very sacred privilege."

During these times, Renner said, it's vitally important to stay focused on the basics, such as maintaining infrastructure, reinvesting appropriately in the community and protecting families and businesses.

"Because the tax initiative failed, we will have to delay many of our capital projects, such as many road improvements," he said. "Also, we must consider options to reduce operational expenses, which will equate to reductions in services from the city.

"As we have done in the past, we will provide opportunities for our residents to provide input on next year's appropriations," he said. "We welcome any constructive and specific input on our appropriations so that we may understand the community's wants and/or needs."

In the race for Ward 2, Schnetzer upset incumbent Wright 1,287 to 545 votes.

"The first thing I'd like to do is thank my supporters," Schnetzer said. "Whether you hosted a yard sign, helped canvass or contributed financially, I am grateful for the outpouring of support I received these last few months."

Looking ahead, he said, the new council must heed the message voters sent Nov. 5 by improving financial operating efficiency.

"I am eager to work with council and the mayor's office to prove to the residents of Gahanna we are upholding our fiduciary duty as good stewards of their tax dollars," Schnetzer said.

In the race for Ward 4, Leeseberg defeated Joseph Gergley 985 to 956 votes. Current Ward 4 council member Beryl Anderson didn't seek re-election.

"I would just like to thank everyone who came out to vote," Leeseberg said. "I know there is a lot of work to be done, and I look forward to getting started."

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said the makeup of the new council appears to include people with good experience.

"We will have experienced newcomers with tough work to come," she said. "There are difficult decisions to be made."

A few of those decisions include whether to move forward with the administration's recommendation to close the city swimming pools, Ohio Herb Education Center and the Gahanna Senior Center in 2015.

The city also previously noted 100 jobs were considered at risk in 2015, including 85 seasonal pool employees.

Stinchcomb told ThisWeek she would not recommend going back on the ballot with the same income-tax request that would have raised the rate from 1.5 to 2.5 percent.

With all 35 precincts reporting, unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections showed the measure failing 4,514 to 3,858 votes.

"It's a sound defeat," Stinchcomb said.

She said the city would continue to have conversations with residents to learn what they would support.

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