Time is running out to keep the lights on!
Time is running out on Buckeye Lake Village Council's self-imposed deadline to shut off the village's 201 street lights on June 30. Council members decided May 26 to shut off the lights after voters rejected a one mill operating levy by a 92-82 vote on May 5.
It's time for Mayor Frank Foster and some council members to step up and exercise some leadership. If not, we'll get a refresher course on how costly poor leadership can be. That's what delayed public water for years and wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars. The federal stimulus program bailed us out on the water system, but that lightning isn't likely to strike in the same place.
First, turning off our street lights only makes financial sense if we believe they won't be turned back on for years. Disconnection costs $7,000. At $1,600 per month to keep them on, that represents almost 4.5 months of keeping them lit. That gets us within spitting distance of the November 3 election. To turn them off and then back on after voters approve a levy in November, costs a total of $10,400. That's $10,400 down the drain to American Electric Power and our streets are dark for at least five months.
Last week, a council member worried that the village might not have enough money to turn the lights off if it waits until the November election and voters reject it again. I'm surprised he's willing to waste his time on council if he has such a low opinion of his fellow residents. Less than 10 percent of the village's registered voters turned out for the May election. The 10-vote margin represents .6 (that's point six) percent of the village's voters. That's hardly a mandate to turn off the lights. Council members have ignored real mandates for reforming the police department for years, so why is such a tiny margin considered so important now?
The May levy was poorly promoted and publicized. Yes, there are some constraints on the ballot language, but that doesn't mean it can't be promoted as the "street light levy." The first step is to honestly explain the need to voters and limit it strictly to street lights. We don't need a one mill levy to keep our street lights lit. According to the Licking County Auditor's Office, one mill in Buckeye Lake Village generates $45,260 a year. That's more than twice what lights cost now - some $19,200 a year. A one half mill levy would generate $22,630 a year. That extra $3,000 a year is reasonable since electric rates will increase over the next five years and the county charges some administrative fees on levies. Anything left over could reimburse the village's general fund for its street light payments in 2009.
A half mill levy earmarked exclusively for street lights costs the owner living in a $100,000 home just $15.31 per year - that's 4¢ (yes, cents) per day. Of course, it is 8¢ a day for a home valued at $200,000 and 12¢ a day for a $300,000 home.
If village officials can't convince a majority of voters to pay some 2¢ to 20¢ a day for the well-documented benefits from street lights, then we need new officials. There's no reason for Buckeye Lake to go dark on June 30!
P.S. Our offer from two weeks ago still stands. If village officials can demonstrate that they can afford the $7,000 to shut off the lights, but not come up with the $9,600 to keep them on through this year, we'll help raise that $2,600. Specifically, we'll adopt at least one light at $100 each and encourage others to do the same. Time is also running out to get a levy on the November ballot. We'll also support and help promote a half mill levy for street lights this fall.