Over the objections of council President Doug Joseph, Reynoldsburg City Council approved an ordinance Sept. 23 to appropriate $17,000 from the city's general fund to pay a political consultant.
The consultant would get $5,500, and the other $11,500 would be used for mailings, printing costs and website information updates.
City officials were careful to explain that political consultant Zack Woodruff would be paid with city funds to create an information-only piece that explains Reynoldsburg's financial situation.
However, Joseph said since Woodruff will also run a political campaign -- using money raised from outside sources -- to convince citizens to vote for the income tax levy, then paying him with city funds for the information piece still is an unethical use of taxpayer dollars.
As council president, though, Joseph does not get to vote on any ordinance unless a council vote ends in a tie.
The ordinance sparked a contentious discussion two weeks ago between City Auditor Richard Harris and Joseph when Harris first proposed the legislation.
Joseph said then he was opposed to using taxpayer money to fund anything that had a connection to the income tax request.
Harris said the information piece the city wants to create does not use tax money inappropriately since it will present a snapshot of the city's finances and needs -- not a plea for a "yes" vote on Issue 23.
Issue 23 is a 1-percent income tax increase on the Nov. 5 ballot. If approved by voters, it would raise Reynoldsburg's income tax from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent and raise about $5 million annually for the city, Harris said.
Voters have rejected the last three attempts to raise the city income tax.
Councilman Barth Cotner made a motion to approve the ordinance as emergency legislation and Councilwoman Leslie Kelly seconded it.
Harris clarified the funding of the information piece, stating that $5,500 of the $17,000 would be paid to Woodruff, while the remaining $11,500 would go to create a direct mailing piece to be sent to residents, for printing costs and for updated financial information on the city's Web page.
"It is a campaign to get information to people," Harris said. "It will be a fact-only piece and an information-only piece."
The vote to approve the ordinance as an emergency was unanimous.
Councilwoman Monica DeBrock said an information piece would help voters make an informed decision.
"I think it is critical we move forward on this informational piece because I do believe it is needed," she said.
Harris said City Attorney Jed Hood would approve the literature before it is sent to residents. He said Woodruff prepared a similar information piece for a campaign in Whitehall.
Council committee meetings are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Reynoldsburg Municipal Building, 7232 E. Main St.