Following Newark's lead, Heath might increase its license-plate permissive tax by $5 to help with the costs of paving streets.

Following Newark's lead, Heath might increase its license-plate permissive tax by $5 to help with the costs of paving streets.

"We've struggled in recent years coming up with the appropriate amount of money to put in our streets," Heath auditor Keith Alexander said.

Heath Mayor Richard Waugh said the city used capital-improvements money to pave streets between 2003 and 2006, but the fund is not large enough to continue.

Waugh said he is concerned about increasing taxes but said the city cannot continue to take money from the capital-improvements fund to pave streets.

"The income tax (increase) that was requested in 2003 went down significantly," Waugh said. "We had to rob the capital-improvements fund to keep services where they are at."

The license-plate tax increase would raise slightly less than $50,000 annually, Alexander said. That would be added to the $70,000 the city has to spend on streets this year and would allow the city to pave more streets.

Newark is in a different situation, with many of its streets in what Newark Mayor Bob Diebold calls "a crisis situation."

Diebold has proposed borrowing $1.5-million to repair the "crisis" and using an increased license-plate permissive tax to repay the debt.

"In '95, we had cutbacks and have had no street-maintenance program," he said.

Newark's license-plate tax could generate $440,000 annually for street paving. Diebold said although the money could be used for land acquisition or traffic signals, he hopes Newark City Council will agree to earmark the money for paving only. Council's approval could help the city pay for $1.5-million in improvements and begin a crack-seal program to keep streets from deteriorating.

Council heard first reading April 21 on legislation to increase its license-plate tax by $10 total, in two $5 increments.

Heath City Council heard first reading April 21 on legislation to increase its license-plate tax by $5.

Although Newark's council heard from two residents who spoke against the tax hike, no one addressed Heath's council on the issue.

Waugh said the city needs to have legislation passed and submitted to the state by July 1 to begin collections Jan. 1, 2009.

Heath increased its license-plate tax in 2005 but did not begin receiving collections until 2007 because of a submission error. Similarly, Diebold said, he can't point to improvements completed with Newark's last permissive tax increase because the city only recently began collections.

Both cities have had proposed license-plate taxes overturned by referendum.

Both cities also benefitted last year from low bids and were able to make the money allocated for paving go further. Heath also received an Ohio Public Works grant for street paving last year, but that grant won't be available this year, Alexander said.

lwince@thisweeknews.com

Richard Waugh