After four and a half hours and three back-to-back meetings Jan. 14, Gahanna City Council finance chairman Jamie Leeseberg said he and his colleagues are close to consensus regarding reductions to balance this year’s budget.

A 2019 budget proposed and presented to council in October made $2.9 million in reductions throughout the city to cover a funding gap to allow council to pass a balanced budget.

“With the unfavorable outcome of the (November) election, we are now faced with long-term funding-shortage decisions,” Mayor Tom Kneeland said in a Jan. 9 email to council about budget reductions.

Council held a public hearing regarding a proposal to reduce the city’s tax credit for income tax paid to another municipality from 83.3 percent to 50 percent. A third public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22.

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 the tax-credit amendment is approved, council member Brian Larick said, it would generate about $3.4 million after being in place for a full year, or about $2.5 million for three-quarters of a year.

A proposed income-tax rate increase from 1.5 to 2.5 percent failed by 8,886 to 8,741 votes, or 50.41 percent against to 49.59 percent in favor, on Nov. 6.

Had it been approved, it was estimated to generate $2.7 million in additional revenue in the first year of collection, $6.4 million in the second year and $9 million when fully implemented in the third year.

Leeseberg said the finance committee had good conversations among council members and the mayor during an executive session Jan. 14.

“We are close to a path forward,” he said.

Kneeland had provided council a menu of about $2 million in reductions late last week that included closing the senior center at a savings of $122,393, laying off about 10 part-time positions at Department of Parks & Recreation at a savings of $217,319 and laying off the deputy parks director at a savings of $97,159.

His recommendations also included eliminating parks and recreation camps, completely closing the Gahanna Swim Club and keeping Hunters Ridge Pool open only for private programs.

“I heard about some of the changes that might be made in Gahanna,” said Elizabeth Champlin, a Middle School West sixth-grader and member of Girl Scout Troop 678. “I’m especially upset about the cuts in the parks department.”

She said she would hate for parks programs to change because of funding.

After a second executive session Jan. 14, Leeseberg said, changes to the senior center and pool are “on the table.”

He said the reductions are expected to be a combination of Kneeland’s and council’s recommendations.

Larick said public discussions on the budget reductions could come during a special finance meeting yet to be announced or when council meets Jan. 28 to vote on the budget.

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