A citizens advisory committee assigned to examine whether Madison Township residents should pay higher license-registration fees to help shore up the township's diminishing budget for road repairs has recommended approving the increase.

The recommendation was approved April 4 by a 5-2 vote during a conference call. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and Ohio's stay-at-home orders prompted the unusual way to conduct the vote.

Township trustees are expected to take up the recommendation at their regular monthly board meeting Tuesday, April 14.

That meeting also will be held via conference call. Call-in information will be shared by the township through social media and other means, according to Susan Brobst, township administrator.

"Something needs to be done with the roads," committee member Wayne Bryan said. "The people I've talked to, nobody really likes the idea, but they've told me that as long as money goes to road repairs only, they don't have a major problem with it."

Committee member Gary McDonald, who voted against recommending an increase, said he isn't comfortable raising taxes when so many people are out of work because of the pandemic.

McDonald and Debbie Miller voted against recommending the increase.

"With the situation that's going on with our country right now, maybe we ought to put this tax aside until a later date," McDonald said. "I really don't know how this is going to affect most of the citizens in our community. ... I think it's a bad idea."

Committee member and Groveport resident David Sells abstained, saying he wouldn't be affected by the increase. Only residents in unincorporated areas of the township would pay the added $5 fee.

By law, township trustees may enact a $5 increase on all motor-vehicle registrations under the permissive motor-vehicle license tax.

In March 2018, the state authorized counties, municipalities and townships to impose the additional $5 fee, with the goal of increasing money for road repairs.

Permissive-tax revenue is to be used by the counties and taxing districts for "planning, constructing, improving, maintaining and repairing public roads, highways, streets, and for the maintaining and repair of bridges and viaducts," according to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles website, bmv.ohio.gov.

The state permits up to 11 such increases of $5 each, but only six may be in effect at any one time in any single-taxing district, which is either a municipality (incorporated village or city) or township.

Madison Township has two districts available to levy permissive taxes and already is using one.

The annual vehicle registration-renewal fee is $31, according to the state BMV website. Local and county fees may add as much as $30 to that, depending on where you live, along with additional service fees.

"Most of the people I talked to didn't think it would be a big thing," committee member Doug Barry said. "I have my own opinion, but the neighbors I've talked to said it wouldn't make a difference to them."

If trustees approve the $5 increase, the fee would not be collected until January 2021, township roads Superintendent Dave Watkins said. The increase must be filed with the state by July 1.

Brobst has estimated the $5 increase would generate about $80,000 annually for road repairs.

Trustees have discussed but not acted on several options to increase road funding, including a general-fund levy, which would affect all township residents, including those in Canal Winchester and Groveport; asking residents in the township's unincorporated areas to support a roads and bridges levy; and raising the township's inside millage.

Voters have not been supportive of tax requests for roads, defeating a 3-mill issue in 2002 and a 2.9-mill request in 2005.

Currently, the township receives road funding from four sources, according to township fiscal officer Laurie Vermeer.

They include a 0.6-mill roads and bridges levy and funds related to the gas tax, motor-vehicle licensure tax and permissive motor-vehicle tax.

"If this isn't passed, we're going to have even more damage to the roads because of flooding or other issues," committee member Karr'yen Jones said.

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