Pataskala City Council's finance committee will meet at 5 p.m. Monday, June 29, to determine a funding source for the city.

Pataskala City Council's finance committee will meet at 5 p.m. Monday, June 29, to determine a funding source for the city.

"I want to look at what's going to be the best for Pataskala in the long run," said Merissa McKinstry, finance committee chairperson.

Currently, McKinstry said, the city is relying only on property taxes and a 45-percent carryover from the previous year. Because the city receives only about 13 percent of the property taxes collected from city residents, McKinstry said, the city must "find a long-term solution."

The city has tried unsuccessfully to pass an income tax seven times since 2001. According to the city's charter, residents must approve an income tax. The city also failed to obtain a renewal of its streets levy in 2006, losing another source of funding by 2007.

The current 5-mill police levy expires at the end of this year, and collections from that levy will expire at the end of 2010.

Earlier this year, following a failed 2-percent income-tax levy in November, the city cut more than $600,000 from its budget by discontinuing the parks-and-recreation department, cutting one person from the planning-and-zoning department, cutting two people from the public-service and street department, suspending road resurfacing, suspending capital-improvements projects to those with grant funding, limiting snow removal to major collector and arterial streets -- plowing only in subdivisions during declared snow emergencies -- and suspending repair and replacement of streetlights in 2009.

On Monday, the finance committee is expected to consider "a possible police levy, street levy, property tax and an income tax."

McKinstry said the city is in need of funding, but the finance committee must try to anticipate what voters would approve.

"The question we have to answer is, 'What will voters support?'" she said.

Pataskala City Councilman Bernard Brush has suggested that council consider a general property-tax levy to fund police, streets and general operations. He said the money could be put into the general fund and distributed by a council vote.

McKinstry said although she is leery of property taxes, she plans to meet with Brush prior to Monday's meeting to determine if a compromise could be reached.

"I am hesitant about a general property tax because I don't want to be in competition with the schools," she said.

Brush said last week that the city has "beaten the income tax to death" and needs to find a way to put a "small flat tax that all will pay with no gimmicks" on the ballot.

He's suggesting a permanent 7-mill property tax, which, he said, would not fund all programs but would "keep the city operating and make some headway."

McKinstry said she hopes all of council could come together and support one issue.

Police Chief Chris Forshey said last week that the department lost another officer to Newark, bringing the department to 15 officers. With the expiration of the police levy on the horizon, morale is down and officers are looking for more permanent employment, he said.

Two weeks ago, another officer left after being hired in Newark. Forshey said that if the PPD loses another, he might have to pull the traffic-enforcement officer back to patrol, negatively affecting revenues from Pataskala mayor's court. If many more officers leave, Forshey said, he might have to consider going to a part-time department or cut services in other ways. He said he hates for the department to be without a detective, though, saying the city handles too many felony cases to work without a detective.

The finance committee has considered an 8-mill police levy that could generate an estimated $2-million in the first year of collections and help the department return to 21 officers on staff.

The finance committee will meet at 5 p.m. Monday in council chambers, 621 W. Broad St.

lwince@thisweeknews.com