Sidney city council continues tax levy renewal discussion

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — Sidney City Council further discussed the next steps to continue revenue after the 0.25 percent income tax street repairs levy expires at the end of 2019 during Monday night’s meeting.

City Manager Mark Cundiff said the city will be unable to maintain the current level of street maintenance, or staff and equip the future north fire station, without revenue created from the levy.

Another five-year increase, he said, would be for street repairs, but revenue for the new fire station would need to be from a permanent source. Cundiff noted that although the language on the ballot will describe the levy as an increase, taxpayers will not pay more. He stressed that the next levy/levies would be the same 0.25 percent and would replace the current 0.25 percent additional income tax levy expiring on Dec. 31, 2019.

At the Oct. 23 meeting, Cundiff outlined six options to consider for after the current levy expires. One, which proposed allowing the current income tax levy to expire, was eliminated as council decided the levy needs to be renewed.

On Monday however, Cundiff presented information council had requested on surrounding communities’ tax rates, and the pros and cons of income tax versus property tax. The report reflected the average municipal income tax rate among surrounding communities is about 1.55 percent, ranging from 1.5 to 2 percent. Sidney’s permanent rate for government activities, before the additional income tax levy, is 1.5 percent. He explained that income tax is only paid by people who work in Sidney, or those with business net profits or rental net profits. Property tax, he said, is paid by all Sidney property owners, including retirees.

After reviewing the requested information, Cundiff presented three methods for renewing the levy that city staff felt are best, and they are:

• A permanent income tax levy of 0.25 percent, with 0.10 percent dedicated to street maintenance and 0.15 percent dedicated to north end fire station operations.

• Two levies: 1) a five-year income tax levy of 0.10 percent for street maintenance and 2) a permanent income tax levy of 0.15 percent for north end fire station operations.

• Two levies: 1) a permanent income tax levy of 0.10 percent for street maintenance and 2) a permanent income tax levy of 0.15 percent for north end fire station operations.

Council was not set on whether to place one levy or two on the ballot. After some discussion, the topic was rescheduled for early January to decide which option is best and when they will bring it forth for a vote.

In other business, council was introduced to two ordinances for supplemental appropriations for 2017 and an ordinance to amending water, sewer, stormwater and solid waste collection rates.

If passed by council, the proposed water, sewer, stormwater and trash pick-up rate changes would increase the low volume user’s bill by $2.42 per month. An average family of four should expect to see an increase of $4.10 per month. The increase includes 90 cents for the new, in 2018, stormwater capital fee.

The water and sewer rates change would become effective Jan. 1, 2018. The new refuse and stormwater rates would become effective April 1, 2018.

Both ordinances will be scheduled for further consideration by council at the Nov. 27 meeting.

Council also adopted two resolutions to authorize the city manager to enter into an agreement with the Shelby County Public Defender Commission, and to authorize the law director to initiate litigation against Sidney property owners who failed to comply with the city’s inflow and infiltration (I&I) program.

The Shelby County Public Defender Commission provides legal representation for citizens accused of criminal conduct that can result in a loss of freedom. The city annually reviews the public defender’s contract. For 2018, Sidney will pay the commission $55,000 per year, which is the same amount amount as the last several years.

The initiation of litigation will be against property owners in Sidney who have either failed to complete I&I program sanitary sewer lateral inspections or necessary repairs to the laterals. Sidney properties were split into sections, and each year since the program’s inception in 2014, the city requires selected property owners to conduct property laterals inspections.

Laterals are underground pipes that carry water to the sanitary sewer main and their and connectors throughout the city. The I&I program works to reduce clear water intrusion into the sanitary sewer system and reduce treatment for the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Council member Steve Wagner thanked everyone for support at SCARF’s Lip Sync Battle fundraiser last Saturday, Nov. 11, at the American Legion. He was one of eight contestants who participated to raise money for the new Shelby County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center. Wagner said they “raised a lot of money for a good cause.”

Mayor Mike Barhorst thanked Council member Darryl Thurber for his great speech at the Shelby County Court House on Veterans Day. He also thanked Wagner for representing council at the Lip Sync Battle fundraiser.

Cundiff reminded everyone about SCARF’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new animal shelter on Friday, Nov. 17, at 4:30 p.m.

Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan was absent, Monday, and was excused by council.

Council also went into an executive session to consider the employment of a public employee. No action was taken when they emerged from the session.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.