Hilliard City Council put the brakes on three ordinances Monday, March 23, because of budget concerns related to a free-falling economy in the midst of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Council indefinitely tabled an ordinance that would have allowed the city to collect an additional $5 permissive tax for each vehicle registered with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles by Hilliard residents, starting in January.
Council also tabled, though not indefinitely, funding for the new position of a diversion-program coordinator and legislation that would make it unlawful for any person under 21 to purchase, use or possess electronic smoking devices.
Council member Cynthia Vermillion said she previously was “on board” with the permissive-tax legislation, but now she believes it could “impose a hardship” on residents.
Council member Kelly McGivern said she also “had concern about moving forward.”
Council opted to table the legislation indefinitely after City Manager Michelle Crandall asked that it be approved then or at least by July 1, the deadline for it to be effective Jan. 1.
Council has two scheduled meetings in April, May and June before the July 1 deadline.
Ohio law permits a taxing district to enact up to six $5 levies, for a total of $30 per vehicle registration, per year, said David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard.
Presently, Hilliard collects five such levies, for a total of $25 per vehicle registration, per year, Ball said.
The new tax would generate $178,528 per year to be used toward road construction, repair and maintenance, according to the ordinance.
Lindsey Bohrer, assistant communications director for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, previously said Hilliard’s additional permissive tax should generate about $158,000 per year.
In 2019, 37,399 vehicles of one kind or another were registered by owners living in the Hilliard taxing district, Bohrer said.
Using 2019 as a baseline when 37,399 vehicles were registered, and subtracting 228 commercial trucks, which are exempt, the remaining 37,171 vehicles, at $5 per vehicle, generates $185,855, according to Bohrer said.
The Department of Public Safety applies a “reduction factor” of 85% to allow for partial-year registrations, for which the permissive tax is prorated.
After applying the reduction factor, the annual additional income is rounded up to $158,000, Bohrer said.
Meanwhile, Ball said, the city’s estimate “is based on more data being considered about the number of cars and what we’re likely to get.”
Council also tabled until May 11 the ordinance that would make it unlawful for any person under 21 to purchase, use or possess electronic smoking devices.
A related ordinance that would fund the position of a diversion-program coordinator to work with juveniles caught using electronic smoking devices also was tabled until May 11. The diversion program is intended to divert nonviolent juveniles found in possession of electronic smoking devices into an educational program to teach the health risks of vaping, Hilliard prosecutor Dawn Steele said previously.
Council members cited future financial uncertainty in choosing not to go forward with legislation.
Crandall said she spoke with Hilliard City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen, who told her he understood if the program were to be postponed, and she recommended that council delay acting on the legislation.
However, if a diversion program were to go into effect by the start of the next school year, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 20, a program director would need to be hired by July 1, Crandall said.
“I’m generally supportive (of the program), but everything is fluid now,” council member Omar Tarazi said.
Council did open the checkbook on another matter.
Council members voted 7-0 to appropriate almost $800,000 for additional parking capacity and for improvements to the trailhead for the Heritage Rail Trail on Center Street.
The city received five bids -- all below the engineer’s estimate of $917,750, with the lowest submitted by Columbus Asphalt Paving for $793,675, Ball said.
“It’s below what we anticipated and budgeted, (and) we’d like to get started,” Crandall said.
She said the project would be “a catalyst” in Old Hilliard.
“It’s a good plan and a good quote,” council member Tom Baker said. “We need to proceed.
Council President Andy Teater said the additional parking would be needed when bars and restaurants in the district reopen.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought sweeping action statewide in an effort to contain the spread of the disease, including the closure of bars and restaurants to dine-in patrons except for carryout and delivery services. It also is the reason council members met remotely March 23, with members livestreaming from their residences, using Microsoft Teams via Facebook.
In addition, earlier on March 23, Crandall issued two more orders with her emergency powers as the city’s acting emergency-management director.
One of the new orders was the temporary closure of the Hilliard Municipal Building, 3800 Municipal Way, to the public.
The other was for all nonessential city employees to remain at home through April 6. It was based on Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton’s stay-at-home order announced March 22.