Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher said city officials might be forced to make some tough decisions in 2010 if residents yet again turn down a revenue source in the new year.

Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher said city officials might be forced to make some tough decisions in 2010 if residents yet again turn down a revenue source in the new year.

Some of those tough decisions could include shutting down the Pataskala Police Department and ceasing to provide many services to which residents have become accustomed, Butcher said.

He said if the police department were eliminated, the city would have to pay more through court fees.

A police levy, which will expire at the end of 2010, currently funds the police department through property taxes.

The levy was expected to generate $1,430,533 in 2009. The department's total annual budget is about $1.8-million.

"If we decided that funding is not provided and we eliminate our police department, that means we are going to eliminate our mayor's court and that revenue and court action will cease, and we will close our court and transfer everything that is written by the sheriff and the highway patrol," he said. "Expenses will go up. It becomes a new expense without revenue coming in."

He said another result of closing the police department would be the loss of control over where police patrol in the city.

The police department plans to have 13 officers in January after two senior lieutenants and Chief Chris Forshey leave. Butcher said the department has employed as many as 21 officers.

Butcher said the service department is facing the same funding issues as the police department.

"As soon as you step away from that, we have exactly the same problems in the street department," he said. "We don't have the money to do repairs and paving."

BJ King, public-services director, said his department's budget dictates the projects he and his staff can do.

"Our infrastructure keeps getting older," King said. "Our roads are just going to keep getting in worse shape. The challenge is to try to maintain our roads."

He said his department has been fortunate in that it has been able to receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and other grant money to complete some of the projects on the checklist.

King said the department has received an Ohio Public Works Commission grant to replace the Cable Road bridge. Work on that project will begin in January.

He also said plans are in the works to replace the McIntosh Road bridge through money from the Federal Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program and to replace the Old Maids Lane bridge through another grant.

If the grants come through, King said, those projects are slated for 2011.

"They all have funding from other sources that are helping to carry those (projects) out," he said. "We've been pretty successful. Hopefully, that success continues in the new year."

Butcher said the city as a whole also has been fortunate to receive funding though alternate sources.

"Many times you have the engineering done or you have to pay for the engineering," he said. "The other issue is, many times they (grants) require matching dollars. We have been fortunate through the stimulus that it doesn't require any matching (dollars)."

Despite the city's success with grants, Butcher said, Pataskala officials and residents are going to have to agree on a new funding mechanism to get the city back on track.

He said he thinks the city needs to pass a 1-percent income tax for the police department and find some kind of funding solution for the streets.

Pataskala residents have rejected proposed income-tax issues eight times in eight years, with most recent attempt failing in November.
"Without question, the police issue is at a critical moment," Butcher said. "We are either going to have a police department or we are not going to have a police department."

He said he doesn't care whether council decides to place an income-tax or a property-tax issue on the ballot, as long as voters have an opportunity to voice their views at the polls.

Jason Carr, Pataskala finance director, said he agrees with Butcher in terms of getting something on the ballot.

He said the city's finance committee will continue to meet, and council likely will make a decision to place something on the May ballot.

"For 2010, I think it is very similar to how 2009 was," he said. "We are still in the same position - trying to find funding for police, streets and things of that nature. It's a very similar message to prior years."