Council discusses next steps for tax levy

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — Sidney City Council began discussions Monday on the city’s next steps for the defeated 0.30 percent municipal income tax levy, on May 7.

The levy was to provide permanent funding for street maintenance and for fire department operations. It would have replaced the five-year 0.25 percent levy for street maintenance that will expire Dec. 31, 2019. The new levy was to have been split evenly between street maintenance and fire department operations, with half of the proceeds permanently designated for street maintenance and half for fire department operations.

The unofficial total for the levy was 890 votes for and 1,233 votes against the levy. Election results will be certified Monday, May 20, at 9 a.m. by the Shelby County Board of Elections.

City Manager Mark Cundiff noted there was a very low voter turn out on Election Day and questioned if that was why the the levy failed.

“We as staff still think that we need both of these for safety so people aren’t wrecking cars because of bad street and we’re are capable the same level of service that we should be providing when it comes to fire and rescue to certain parts of the community. And that would strengthen other parts of the community,” Cundiff said. “I think it was a misconception that it was only going to help a certain area of town.”

He heard various reasons why the levy failed, from those who thought the city did nothing with the current levy funds for streets, to those who didn’t vote for it because their street had already been fixed, to those who thought the new fire department would only benefit one area of town.

Cundiff presented three options for the next steps for council to consider, and they are:

• Place a combined 0.3 percent streets/fire levy on the November general election ballot;

• Place a single issue 0.15 percent street levy and a 0.15 percent fire levy on the November general election ballot;

• Seek additional feedback and revise the strategy altogether.

Several council members heard from residents that they didn’t vote or voted no because their road had already been paved, that people either didn’t know about the levy and new fire department or that Social Security would not be taxed.

Council member Ed Hamarker suggested posting signs about the levy for the next election. Mayor Mike Barhorst like the idea, and said he thinks signs should help get the word out.

Barhorst urged council members to reach out to voters to ask questions and help communicate why council thinks the two issues are important in Sidney.

“We need to form the best approach we can for the city because it is vitally important that we get this thing done. And we haven’t even really talked about economic development. That if we considered projects out there that people are considering, there is no way we can annex more territory to this community. Because we can’t really serve what we have now. And I don’t want to be the one having to say, no we can’t grow at this point, because we can’t,” Barhorst said.

Council member Darryl Thurber encouraged citizens and Sidney Daily News readers to approach council members and learn more about why the city thinks the issues are so important.

Fire Chief Brad Jones reiterated there was a very low voter turn out on May 7. He said out of approximately 13,050 registered voters in Sidney, only about 2,100 came out to the polls, or about 15.8 percent of voters.

“When you look at (the amount of voters who came out) and then you also look at the actual votes themselves, it wasn’t a resounding defeat,” Jones said. “So, when you keep that in mind, and you mind-down and clarify your messaging, and you get a ‘get out the vote’ approach, to really stress the importance of the (fire and streets levy issues), I think there is a positive future for it. The voter turn out is really key. It was the lowest voter turn out we have had in six (both general and primary elections).”

Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan noted it is not too unusual for a levy not to pass the first time on the ballot. She said sometimes it takes “several times around the block” and that council needs to move forward.

In other business, Ron Schalow, manager of Shelby County Transit, led a discussion on the Shelby Public Transit 2019-20 rates. His recommendation to council came after the Transit Advisory Committee’s May 2 meeting on the rates.

The Shelby County Transit provides transportation for various Shelby County care facilities and human service agencies, on a contracted basis. These agencies have a funding source for their client’s transportation needs, Schalow said.

Rural transit systems are encouraged by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to set contract rates to recover the full cost of the service provided, he said. This method reserves grant funds for the support of transit service provided to the general public, including the elderly and disabled.

The proposed contract rates were for about a 2 percent increase for July 1 through June 30, 2020. The proposed rates would increase to $63 from $ per hour, to $24 from $23.25 per trip, and to $5.15 from $5 per mile.

No increase of rates for non-contract fares, which is service for the general public, was recommended. An ordinance will be brought back to council for further consideration on the topic on on May 28.

City Council will revisit the topic at a future date after members have gathered more community input.

Council also adopted the following four resolutions:

• To terminate the enterprise zone agreement and income tax sharing agreement executed with Fresh Unlimited dba Freshway Foods for non-performance.

Due to unforeseen delays with building acquisition, construction and installation was not completed as stipulated in the agreement, Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth said. Fresh Unlimited is uncertain when the delays will be resolved, she said, and do not wish to amend the agreement with new project dates at this time, as they may not be met.

• To authorize the grant of a revocable license to DP&L to place a transformer pad in the parking lot for the Ohio Building.

• To authorize Cundiff to enter into a special event use agreement with Raise the Roof for the Arts and to authorize the consumption and possession of alcohol on public property.

The special event agreement allows Raise the Roof for the Arts to use a portion of Sidney’s property, which is commonly knows as the Ohio Building parking lot, for an outdoor Backstage Block Party concert on June 15, 2019. The resolution also grants authorization for alcohol to be consumed and possessed during the concert.

• To strongly urge Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and members of the Ohio General Assembly to restore the local government funds to pre-recession funding and revenue sharing levels.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.