Reynoldsburg News

City Council races

Candidates say development and finances are top issues

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Reynoldsburg residents will elect three at-large City Council representatives from among four candidates on the November ballot: incumbents Barth Cotner and Chris Long and challengers Dan Skinner and Preston Stearns.

Cotner, Long and Skinner emerged as winners from a six-candidate Republican primary May 7, edging out current at-large City Council member Monica DeBrock, who was appointed in January to serve out the remainder of Nathan Burd's term, which expires Dec. 31.

Stearns is the lone Democrat among the four.

Cotner, 41, is a funeral director and owner of Cotner's Funeral Home.

His wife, Julie, is a first-grade teacher at Slate Ridge Elementary School, and they have two children, ages 6 and 5.

He was first appointed to council in January 2009.

"I chose to file for the vacant position (at that time) because I wanted to find a way to be more involved in serving my community," he said. "I believe council needs people who are fully devoted to making Reynoldsburg better."

Cotner attended Ohio University for two years, then transferred to finish his bachelor's degree in mortuary science at the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.

He said the city needs to bring in more revenue and that Issue 23, the 1-percent increase in the city income tax on the Nov. 5 ballot, may be the best way to do that.

"Over the last several years, spending has been consistently reduced," he said. "Now there are minimal options to reduce more spending while maintaining safety and quality of life in Reynoldsburg."

Cotner said an ad hoc committee of local business and financial leaders determined the city faces a long-term "structural imbalance."

"Essentially, more money is needed," he said. "Unfortunately, the best way to generate more revenue with the least impact on residents is the income tax rate increase. Most residents would not pay any more tax dollars than they currently pay."

He said if the tax issue is not approved by voters, council will continue to work with the resources at hand.

"We will move forward and strive to make the best of what we have," he said. "We need to continue to market Reynoldsburg in efforts of increasing our tax base with more businesses.

"I will always look for ways to responsibly minimize spending and work to build partnerships that can create more revenue or help with shared expenses."

Long, 55, is manager of the Office of Strategic Business Investments for the Ohio Development Services Agency.

He and his wife, Sandy, have six adult children, ranging in age from 23-40.

Long was elected to council in November 2009.

"My dedication to our community runs deep," he said. "Even with the down economy and the state budget cuts, we've maintained the high level of services our citizens deserve in our community.

"We've added safety personnel and provided the equipment they need to continue the stellar job they've been doing," he said. "We've purchased the equipment needed by our street and water/sewer departments so they can continue to provide for the community. I pledge to continue to do the hard work that will be needed to continue the progress we've made."

Long is a Reynoldsburg High School graduate who attended the University of Chicago Air Force Extension Program in general business studies. He is working on certification as an economic development finance professional.

Long said he was against council's attempt to lower the city income tax credit, which was vetoed by Mayor Brad McCloud.

"I stood against this attempt to grab additional taxes without voter consent from already-stretched home budgets," he said. "The issue of additional taxes is being presented, as it should be, to the people. There has been a list prepared by the administration of what the additional revenue will be used for.

"I will sit down with anybody at any time to review those proposed projects," he said. "Ultimately, it will be up to the voter to decide if these proposed projects are truly needed."

Long said if the income tax issue on the ballot is not approved, then the city must focus all efforts on economic development and redevelopment.

"We have done the hard work needed to pass balanced budgets and maintain the level of services our community and its citizens deserve," he said. "The revenues needed for the operation of the city come directly from the activities of our local businesses and the workers in our city. Only by expanding the business base within the city will we be able to collect the revenues needed for future growth."

Skinner, 32, is an attorney. He is single. He is co-owner of a general practice law firm that practices administrative, adoption, civil, criminal, corporate and estate and family law, among others.

"I decided to run for City Council so that I could serve others," he said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to serve my fellow citizens and will work hard to meet our community's needs and solve the difficulties we face.

"I served my fellow students as class president and student body president at the University of Dayton School of Law," he said. "I am also currently serving as chairman of the Reynoldsburg Planning Commission."

Skinner earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Mt. Vernon Nazarene University and his law degree from the University of Dayton School of Law.

He is a member of Ohio Right to Life, the National Rifle Association, the Columbus Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association and the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Skinner said he is against the income tax hike on the November ballot.

"The citizens have turned down similar tax-increase proposals multiple times in recent years," he said. "I would like to see the city spend more time and effort attempting to increase revenue through business development before taking additional resources from our citizens through a tax increase."

Skinner said if the tax issue does not pass in November, the city should work toward attracting new businesses.

"The city has been meeting its budget and carrying over approximately $1 million into the following year," he said. "We are making ends meet and then some right now. We should generate additional revenue through business development before increasing citizens' taxes."

Stearns, 67, is a retired skilled trades supervisor from the General Motors/Delphi automotive facility.

He and his wife, Carolyn, have three grown children and four grandchildren.

"I decided to run in this council race because Reynoldsburg needs my experience and commitment to get results," he said. "I am also in the race to give citizens a better choice. If elected, I will serve a full term and work diligently to bring quality bipartisanship solutions to Reynoldsburg.

"I have a great passion for and commitment to making Reynoldsburg better and making it an example of prosperity for all citizens," he said.

Stearns attended Franklin University and served a General Motors apprenticeship.

He was elected as the Ward 1 representative on Reynoldsburg City Council in 2003 and served one term.

"During my tenure as councilman, I served as chairman of the community development committee, which spearheaded the Rosehill Road upgrade," he said.

Stearns also served as a Franklin County ADAMH trustee and on the Franklin County TIF Review Council.

Recently, he served as chairman of the Reynoldsburg Ward Boundary Commission.

He said there is a need to pass the income tax issue.

"I believe that municipal income taxes are the life's blood to Reynoldsburg's city operations," he said. "I also believe that we must find a balanced approach between funding operations at an effective level, maintaining and expanding our vital infrastructure and taxing our citizens. We must eliminate unnecessary costs."

Stearns said if the tax issue fails in November, "the next-best option is to revisit a tax-credit reduction, which was passed by the current City Council and vetoed by the mayor."

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