Gahanna Mayor Tom Kneeland said the city is in sustainability mode after official results of the Nov. 6 election confirmed the defeat of the city's proposed income-tax increase.
The tax issue failed 8,886 to 8,741 votes, or 50.41 percent against to 49.59 percent in favor, in the official results announced Nov. 27 by the Franklin County Board of Elections. The tally included provisional ballots and absentee ballots that were postmarked Nov. 5 and received within 10 days after the general election.
In unofficial returns Nov. 6, the issue was failing by 126 votes. The margin of defeat increased to 145 votes in the official results, according to Aaron Sellers, elections board spokesman.
Without the extra funding, the city faces a $2.9 million funding gap for 2019 that will compound to $8 million each year the shortage isn't addressed, Kneeland said.
"The administration and council are currently working on the budget beyond 2019 and looking at cuts that will need to occur to maintain essential services in the future," Kneeland said.
"One thing for certain is that there will be no new projects, and we will be in sustainability mode only," he said. "There will be reductions in some services, and we're evaluating all options to determine where more cuts will take place."
Kneeland said he's working with his team to understand the best approach to engage the Gahanna public in future discussions of needs and to convey the challenges for funding essential services going forward.
"We are now faced with how to financially maintain our important assets, such as streets and public buildings and properties," he said. "We will do our best to protect all of our public assets and provide services based on available resources."
Had voters approved the proposal, listed as Issue 29 on the ballot, the city's income-tax rate would have increased from 1.5 to 2.5 percent.
After the election, Kneeland said the issue was and still is critical to maintaining the city's streets and infrastructure for a safe community, and addressing other improvements.
The tax issue was designed to generate $2.7 million in additional revenue in the first year of its collection, $6.4 million in the second year and $9 million when fully implemented in the third year.
City leaders had hoped to put 75 percent of the money toward doubling the city's program to repair streets, adding police officers and improving street lighting to enhance safety.
The levy also was earmarked to provide revenue for the last section of the Big Walnut Trail, creating access from the north end of Gahanna to the south end at Pizzurro Park.
The other 25 percent was intended to go toward general municipal operations.
Gahanna City Council President Brian Larick said the tax issue was a reasonable and well-thought-out option that would have met the city's projected capital needs for the next 20 years, and stopped the loss of nearly $4 million in tax revenue going to neighboring cities.
He said council is now tasked with stabilizing the city budget to conform with the existing revenue constraints.
A statement issued after the election, signed by council members, said residents' input on what service cuts are viable would be incorporated into the discussion.
Council meets at 7 p.m. the second and fourth Mondays of each month at Gahanna City Hall, 200 S. Hamilton Road.
The 2019 proposed budget is available on the city website, www.gahanna.gov.