Gahanna voters will decide Nov. 6 whether or not to increase the city's income tax from 1.5 to 2.5 percent.
Issue 29, as it appears on the ballot, calls for 75 percent of the increase to be dedicated for capital improvements, maintenance and repair of streets and other physical properties, and 25 percent would go toward general municipal operations.
Gahanna's current income tax rate has an 83.33 percent credit applied to the lesser of the tax paid to another municipality or the tax imposed by the city (1.5 percent).
If Issue 29 is approved, the city plans to increase the credit to 100 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2019, for residents who work outside Gahanna and pay income taxes to other municipalities.
Pending approval, the issue would generate $2.7 million in additional revenue the first year of collection, $6.4 million in the second year and $9 million when fully implemented in the third year.
Mayor Tom Kneeland said the city would be able to double its program to repair streets, where maintenance was previously deferred because of the lack of funds.
The funding also would allow the city to add police officers in the community and improve street lighting to enhance public safety.
Kneeland said the levy also would provide revenue for the last section of the Big Walnut Trail, creating access from the north end of Gahanna at Morse Road to the south end at Pizzurro Park.
It also would provide for further development of the Veterans Memorial Park area, Kneeland said.
If the levy fails, the city would be facing a $2.6 million deficit for the 2019 budget.
City officials have said the funding to fix streets would need to be reduced after this year.
The current school resource-officer program would remain, but it wouldn't be expanded with additional police officers in the middle schools.
If the issue fails, there would be no funding for additional trails and there would be no new parks or recreation facilities in the community, Kneeland said.
Campaign's final push
Dewitt Harrell, co-chairman of Citizens for a Stronger Gahanna, the group promoting the issue, said it's an exciting and challenging time for the Gahanna community.
"We have a cross-road opportunity to reform our tax code with dramatic results," Harrell said. "We have a choice to switch and stop hard earned income dollars from leaving our town and going to 14 other cities in Franklin County."
Make no mistake, he said, the city's flat-lined tax rate for nearly 42 years has created unintended consequences where nearly $4 million left Gahanna last year alone and the projected gap in unfunded capital projects continues to grow.
"Through sound fiscal management, the city has held the line on costs while moderately providing services and caring for our public infrastructure," Harrell said. "However, not many of these services cost the same amount for 42 years."
If Issue 29 passes, he said, the city immediately would begin to complete approved projects on the capital plan.
"I know that with the reform, a large amount of residents will see an annual tax reduction of roughly 0.25 percent and a smaller amount will see a slight increase of from 0.25 percent to 1 percent," Harrell said.
"I believe that the improvements in community and school safety, improvements in infrastructure, and improvements in our parks, trails, will help businesses, property values and quality of living," he said.
As the community considers the future of Gahanna, he said, there are three basic questions that need to be answered.
"As a proud resident of Gahanna, what do we want for our families, neighbors and friends?" Harrell said. "No. 2, vwhere do we see Gahanna in the next three to five years and beyond? And No. 3, what will we do on Nov. 6 to help?"
In the future, he said, he hopes Gahanna will be a lot like it is today, except he hopes items on the city's five-, 10-, 15- and 20-year capital plans have been completed.
There is no known organized opposition regarding the tax measure.
Gahanna last proposed a rate increase from 1.5 to 2.5 percent in November 2013, when it failed with a vote of 3,883 (46.03 percent) in favor to 4,552 (53.97 percent) against it.
That issue also proposed giving residents who work outside city limits a full tax credit.
More about the tax issue can be found online at www.Stronggahanna.com, including a calculator to help residents figure out how the proposal would affect individual income taxes.
Information also can be found online at Gahanna.gov/issue29.
Town-hall meetings will be held with Kneeland and city staff at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at Gahanna Middle School West, 350 N. Stygler Road, and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, at Shepherd Church of Nazarene, 425 S. Hamilton Road.