Gahanna is experiencing a reboot of sorts, thanks to revenue to be generated from voters' approval in May of Issue 12, an income-tax increase from 1.5% to 2.5%, with a credit increase from 83.33% to 100% for those who pay municipal taxes elsewhere.
Gahanna City Council reversed course and agreed to fully fund positions through 2019 that were at risk of being defunded July 1.
At Mayor Tom Kneeland's request, council voted June 17 to appropriate funds that restore a 2.5% wage increase for unclassified staff, adds a police lieutenant and police analyst back to the force and fully funds the director of parks and recreation, economic-development manager, forestry foreman and the planning-and-zoning administrator.
Council voted 6-0 in favor of the request, with council member Brian Larick absent. Those voting "yes" were president Brian Metzbower, Stephen Renner, Karen Angelou, Jamie Leeseberg, Nancy McGregor and Michael Schnetzer.
"I feel really good that we finally have a solid financial plan for the balance of the year," Kneeland said following the meeting.
"I'm sure with a new administration, there will likely be some additional changes in 2020. But at least we have an adequate level of staff and funding to handle the projects and programs for the balance of 2019," he said. "There will still be a few gaps in some new programs, like the rental-code enforcement, but we will continue to develop the program and roll it out incrementally for the balance of the year."
Kneeland decided not to seek re-election in the November general election.
"We are looking forward to hitting the reset button and working to restore Gahanna to the level of services that (residents) deserve," Metzbower said.
"I want to thank you for your patience, as we felt maybe we appeared to be discombobulated a little bit," Renner said, addressing the public and city employees. "But we wanted to make sure that we reset some of these ordinances after all the hubbub of Issue 12.
"And so congratulations, you have your raises. Congratulations, we have everybody funded. That's a very good thing in my book that we have our city now reset to the beginning."
Thanks to the passage of Issue 12, Renner said, the city now is funded for the future, and that's a positive thing.
Issue 12 is estimated to generate about $9 million annually when fully implemented and assuming 100% compliance, Schnetzer said.
"One word that could describe this year and some of what has been going on with council is tumultuous," Metzbower said.
"With the budget issues, extending the budget into January and then putting Issue 12 on the ballot, a lot has been going on."
In the past six months, he said, a lot has been accomplished.
"I'm optimistic as to what we can continue to do for the future of this city," Metzbower said. "I think this will go down as some of the most important six months in quite a long time."
Kneeland said in a June 12 memo to council that Gahanna residents have come to expect exceptional customer service.
He said the correspondence was in response to Larick's request for the "value" of having a position in house rather than contracted out.
Larick has said he couldn't fund a position if he didn't know the value it serves.
"The citizens of Gahanna voted to support the capital improvements and operations of the city," Kneeland wrote. "The supplemental request to fund the positions and salary increase are critical to continuing exceptional customer service for Gahanna residents."
Prior to council's vote to fund the positions, resident Jeannie Hoffman said council should approve dollar amounts, not personnel or specific positions.
From the outside looking in, she said, it seems like some council members are trying to make personnel decisions that are to be made solely by the mayor.
"The mayor was elected by the citizens of Gahanna to manage our city," she said. "It's 100% his responsibility to appoint and remove directors. Defunding a position that's spelled out by charter feels a lot like micromanaging the mayor and setting the city up for failure."
Hoffman said this is not the time for descriptions of why an employee is of value to the community.
"We have to trust Mayor Kneeland and his staff are making decisions with the best interest of the community always at the forefront of his mind," she said. "These positions to be defunded were obviously of value when they were budgeted for 2019 and all years prior. Budget time is the appropriate time to be looking at every position and the value it brings to the community."
Angelou said she's glad the legislation was approved, moving the city forward.
"The city is too good not to move it forward," she said.
Council also approved legislation to appoint April Beggerow as clerk of council. Her appointment became effective June 24.
She has worked as Reynoldsburg's council clerk since October 2013.
Beggerow previously worked for the Ohio Municipal League in Columbus for 13 years.