MILLERSPORT – Village council members were getting ready to adjourn their shortest meeting of the year when Finance Committee chair Dustin Bidwell mentioned a village income tax.
He said the village’s general fund is only carrying over about $15,000 into 2015 and if spending patterns continue next year, there will be a deficit in 2016. “We need to consider a one percent income tax for the village,” Bidwell said.
State law allows statutory municipalities to enact up to a one percent income tax without voters’ approval. A majority of council members would have to support the measure. A presentation on how an income tax would work is tentatively set for February’s council meeting.
Bidwell also some property sales are an option, including some of the 33 acres purchased from Richard Keller, the now cleared BP station site on Lancaster Street and a vacant lot on Broad Street.
“This (income tax) is the last resort,” Mayor Dean Severance said. He noted that the village is paying nearly $22,000 a year to pay off the loan that financed the Keller property purchase. Efforts to extend the term of that loan to reduce the annual payment or switch to just interest-only payments for several years were rejected by the lender, Severance said. He also said police department expenses have increased as coverage has increased.
“I’m not a fan of the income tax,” Bidwell said, adding that the status quo is no longer an option.
“We’ve lost a ton money from the state over the past few years,” Severance added.
“We procrastinate too much on this council,” council member Donna Thogmartin said. “We need to pursue these property sales.” She asked about Mayor’s Assistant Vince Popo’s plans to develop condos on a portion of the Keller property. Popo said a developer had been interested but other village officials had been non-committal. The last meeting was about nine months ago, he said.
“We need to move forward before we put on a one percent income tax,” Thogmartin said.
“This place doesn’t want to grow,” Popo added. “They don’t want to change,” council member Gary Methany said.
Severance’s wife, Karen, said, “Council needs to move.” She asked why so little progress has been made. “ The mayor and council haven’t done anything,” the mayor responded.
“Let’s do something with it or get rid of it (Keller property),” Matheny suggested. “Let’s run a road through it and let a contractor build homes. That (Keller property) is our biggest draw down right now.”
Former Finance Committee chair and current member Chuck Mesko said a number of factors are responsible for the village’s deteriorating financial condition. “I’m opposed to taxation without representation,” he added. Mesko wants voters to make the decision on an income tax.
Popo and Bidwell will work on some plans to develop some housing on a portion of the Keller property. The mayor will get some estimates on the value of the former BP station property and some other village-owned lots.
During the brief meeting proceeding the income tax discussion, Fire Chief Robert Price said the department is applying for a grant to replace their 25-year old breathing air compressor for their air packs. It no longer meets the requirements for breathing air. Price said the department made 70 runs in November and the year-todate total is 813.
Police Chief Mark Consolo said two reserve officers are completing their training and will soon be added to the patrol schedule.
He said the department’s computer technology is about seven years old and is becoming obsolete. Consolo is seeking a grant to purchase new computers. He thanked voters who supported the additional police levy that was rejected by a 219-149 vote on Nov. 4.
Bill Newton PE of GGC Engineers said the Tadpole Street area stormwater collection project started a couple of weeks ago. He said it is about 50 percent complete and most of the work should be done by Christmas. Council members approved a $500 retainer for GGC’s engineering services for 2015.
Council members also ratified the updated solid waste management plan for the Coshocton-Fairfield Licking-Perry Solid Waste District. Council members David Sherrer and Thogmartin voted “no.” Both said they had no idea what was in the plan. Severance said he had reviewed the 244-page plan briefly and it didn’t raise any issues for the village.
Council members unanimously approved water and sewer rate increases effective Jan. 1. The basic in-town water rates increases from $25 to $25.75 per month for 3,000 gallons. The out-of-town rate for 2,000 gallons goes from $37.50 to $38.63 per month. Basic sewer rates (2,000 gallons a month) go from $25 to $26.52 per month for in-town and $28.30 to $30.02 per month for out-of-town.