Gahanna leaders are ready to move forward after city voters last week gave a resounding "yes" to Issue 12, changing the city's income-tax rate from 1.5% to 2.5% and increasing the tax credit from 83.33% to 100% for those who pay municipal taxes elsewhere.
The income-tax increase, marking the first in more than 40 years, passed May 7 by a vote of 5,895 to 1,417, or 80.62% to 19.38%, respectively, according to final, unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections.
Carrin Wester, chairwoman of the Issue 12 campaign and member of Gahanna Residents Improving Tomorrow, said as a community, there's still a lot of work ahead, but the win is a huge first step toward a healthier future.
"Our Issue 12 committee, Gahanna Residents Improving Tomorrow, worked so hard to get to every voter in Gahanna," she said. "We talked to voters at the soccer fields, at HOA and PTA meetings, via social media and answered questions via email.
"But the most important thing we did was our door-to-door effort. We talked to thousands of voters on their doorsteps, and that's important. We were passionate about getting face to face with as many voters as possible."
Wester said voters were more aware of what was at stake during this campaign.
"Residents here love this city," she said. "At the foundation of all of this is the sentiment that our community is worth it. I think we tried, as a campaign, to tie everything together with that main theme. What we have in common is that we love Gahanna and want to see it thrive.
"There are some really awesome families and residents here, and we all want Gahanna to continue to be a great place to live, ultimately."
Wester said residents also were aware of Gahanna City Council's decision to lower the tax credit if Issue 12 would have failed, something that would have put the city on a path that is uncommon in Franklin County.
"Our income-tax rate really should be a flat tax, and Issue 12 does that for the most part," she said. "Issue 12 passing will have a positive impact for years ahead."
Wester said residents would be able to see the benefits of Issue 12 in the areas of public safety; repairs and replacement of streets, bridges and curbs; parks and recreation programming, and park facilities, to name a few.
"I think we owe it to the citizens of Gahanna who showed their overwhelming support for the future of our city in supporting Issue 12, to bring our city back to health," said Brian Metzbower, council president.
Gahanna Mayor Tom Kneeland said voters looked at the reality the city was facing and chose the best path to move the city forward.
"Now the hard work of fulfilling the trust voters have placed in us begins," he said. "The best way to do that is to continue to strategically use their tax dollars to make Gahanna a better place to live and work."
Kneeland said he plans to work closely with council to quickly address any immediate needs so residents continue to receive the services they need and expect -- and to keep up the momentum.
"In the longer term, I look forward to working with them in the coming weeks and months to position Gahanna for success, based on a more-detailed analysis of the city's strategic needs and priorities," he said. "The passage of Issue 12 means Gahanna is positioned to build on its success and continue to thrive.
"When people in Ohio and across the country are deciding where to live and work, they look closely at city services, infrastructure, transportation and amenities like parks, cultural events and sports, along with safety and education. Gahanna will now have the needed resources to invest in these critical areas and provide for our growing population."
As mayor and a lifelong resident, Kneeland said, he plans to work hard and do whatever he can to make the future an exciting reality.
Seventy-five percent of the revenue resulting from the tax increase will be dedicated to capital improvements and equipment for infrastructure, public safety, municipal facilities or parks and recreation, including but not limited to streets, buildings, parks facilities, trails and playground elements, maintenance and repair of the equipment, and paying debt service for such purposes.
The other 25% will fund operations for public safety, public service or parks and recreation, including but not limited to police protection, 911 emergency services, snow removal, streetlight and traffic-signal maintenance, and recreation programs.
Issue 12 is estimated to generate about $9 million annually when fully implemented and assuming 100 percent compliance, councilman Michael Schnetzer said.
The board of elections must begin its official tally of primary election ballots by May 22 and certify vote totals by May 28.