Gahanna residents have launched an initiative to place an income-tax issue on another coming ballot.
Tommie Radd introduced herself to Gahanna City Council on Jan. 22 as spokeswoman of the Residents Ballot Initiative for Gahanna, a nine-member steering committee prepared to work with other residents toward a tax issue for a special election in August.
"We became aware of the high stakes for the future of Gahanna and our quality of life when Issue 29 failed (this past November) by 160 votes," she told council members. "We have decided to meet this challenge head-on by initiating a positive campaign, by going to our citizens to get their vote to move our community forward."
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 have generated $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.
In moving the city forward, Radd asked council to prioritize people and programs over projects that could be postponed.
"People and the programs they manage or use are the primary voting blocks needed for a positive vote in August," she said. "Clear communication with our residents can activate their involvement to gain community support and move people to vote."
Radd said Gahanna offers businesses and residents a quality of life that needs to be enhanced and built upon, to continue to be seen as equal to other suburban communities.
"Being on an equal playing field with our neighboring communities protects our development and property value," she said.
Radd said Gahanna also needs to continue enhancement of family-friendly opportunities for residents of all ages through the parks, trails, pools, senior center, community services and police.
"Gahanna needs to be perceived as a forward-thinking community committed to a high quality of life for all residents," she said. "Everything we prioritize communicates our vision for the future."
Radd said the city needs to continue involvement with the schools and other community resources.
Carrin Wester, a steering committee member, said it's clear people want another chance to vote on the tax increase.
"Because of the current budget discussions and pending possible cuts, I think, a lot of people in Gahanna are realizing that this revenue increase is needed and have kind of woken up to do something about Gahanna's future."
Wester said the committee's consensus is that setting a 2.5 percent tax rate paired with a 100 percent tax credit is the best option for Gahanna and residents, although no ballot language has been finalized.
"We feel that's a good combination to pursue," she said.
Radd said if an issue would be placed successfully on the August ballot and approved by voters, the city would receive income beginning Oct. 1.
Councilwoman Karen Angelou thanked Radd and others from the steering committee who came before council.
"It was an emotional moment to me," she said.
Angelou said it was wonderful seeing citizens stand up to show they want a better Gahanna.
She said the tax initiative is important.
"It's such a necessity," Angelou said. "I'm going to say it will be a workable thing, and it's exactly what we need."
Councilman Stephen Renner said he's overjoyed with the energy he has witnessed with residents coming to council.
"It takes courage and passion to come here," he said. "I'd definitely like it (a tax proposal) back on the ballot. I'm definitely for saving our programs and jobs. To me, it's about programs and services and saving jobs."
Renner said he has faith in the community and asked residents to keep their courage and passion, and continue with the grassroots initiative.
Radd said the committee is preparing to begin a petition campaign and work on ballot initiative language.
"We are enthusiastic to proceed for Gahanna's future," she said.