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Village council to consider imposing income tax

MILLERSPORT – A failed attempt at a July 21 special Millersport Village Council meeting to take the final step to put an additional two-mill levy for parks and recreation on the November ballot may lead council members to impose a one percent income tax on residents.

Council members, with council member Donna Thogmartin absent, unanimously agreed at their June 9 regular meeting to take the first step to place an additional two mill levy on the November ballot.

Two mills would bring in about $42,000 a year, fiscal officer Susan Ramsey told council members. The funds would be used to develop the village’s property between the municipal building and the water treatment plant.

Discussion at the July 21 special meeting focused on how to address the village’s need for additional revenue. Levies to fund specific services would allow voters to decide what services they are willing to fund. On the other hand, state law allows a village council to impose a one percent income tax without voters’ approval.

Council member Gary Matheny moved to suspend the three reading rule so the resolution to place the additional levy would meet the Board of Elections August 5 deadline. His motion died for a lack of a second.

At council’s August 11 meeting, council member Dustin Bidwell asked if council is planning to move forward with the one percent income tax. Bidwell said he didn’t support imposing the tax.

“If we aren’t going to do levies, we have to general stuff,” Bidwell said. Council member David Sherrer said he wanted three readings for any resolution to impose an income tax. It could then be effective Jan. 1, 2016.

“We’ve been waiting long enough,” Sherrer said.

Matheny said income tax proceeds would go into the village’s general fund and could be used for any services. However, general revenue can not be used as matching funds for park and recreation grants, he added. Grants require that a specific parks and recreation levy be in place.

Resident and now candidate for mayor Eric Scher suggested that any action authorizing the income tax should have a sunset clause in it. “We should do this as a temporary stop gap measure,” he said. “I’m afraid that if we don’t make any changes we are right back to where we are now.”

“We’ve held off for a long time,” Matheny said. “It is not a brand new thing.” Matheny is also challenging Mayor Dean Severance on the November ballot as is Bidwell.

Severance pointed out early in the discussion that there is a cost to the village to collect an income tax. Ramsey suggested that a representative from the Regional Income Tax Agency be invited to council’s Sept. 8 meeting to explain the process, costs and revenue projections. Council members agreed with her recommendation.

If council members decide to move ahead with an income tax, the ordinance would have its first reading at their October meeting. Residents could comment at the October, November and December council meetings with council members voting at December meeting.

Severance told The Beacon the next day that he first wants to look for additional revenue in other areas. “I don’t want to shove something down people’s throats,” he explained.

In other business August 11, council members accepted council member Thomas Middleton’s resignation effective August 1. President Pro Tem Charles Mesko nominated Beth Warner to replace Middleton since she had already filed to seek a council seat in November.

Scher, who has regularly attended council meetings for years, protested, noting that he has now requested an appointment six times. “Six times – really?” he asked.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that Beth (Warner) had already filed out the paperwork, I would have nominated you,” Mesko told Scher. “It is no disrespect to you, my friend.”

Council members then unanimously appointed her to replace Middleton. She will have to give up Middleton seat at the end of the year to accept her new fouryear term.

Severance noted that two council seats will be open effective January 1. He wants to schedule a meeting in September or October to discuss the openings and expectations with potential council members.

Warner has been a Millersport resident since 1994. Two adult children are Walnut Township Schools graduates and her twins are in the eighth grade. She has been a licensed social worker for 30 years and has worked as a juvenile probation officer in Franklin County. “I’m really looking forward to it (being on council),” she told The Beacon after the meeting.

In his report, Mayor’s Assistant Vince Popo said, “We’re pretty darn close to breaking even (on the pool).” Matheny said the pool committee will sell fried baloney sandwiches again at the Sweet Corn Festival. However, this year they will be sharing the work and proceeds with the Community Watch program volunteers.

Popo also reported on his meeting with Kimble managers to discuss the village’s complaints about service. Complaints ranged from trash blowing out of company trucks to missed residential and commercial pickups and damage. “They didn’t miss anything last week,” he added. Driver turnover has been a big problem for Kimble, he said. The company is losing drivers to the booming fracking industry in eastern Ohio.

He added that the 60 day notice to improve service or lose the contract has not been triggered. Popo emphasized that Kimble understands their contract will not be renewed unless service improves. “I think they (Kimble) are going to be OK,” Matheny offered.

Popo expressed frustration with the village’s former contractor, Waste Management. Three dumpsters containing trash have still not been picked up from three village facilities. “Waste Management has been very disrespectful,” Matheny added.

Severance said he was working on an ad seeking a village zoning administrator. He has discussed the opening with Walnut Township Zoning Administrator Kevin Clouse who isn’t currently interested in taking on the additional responsibility. Clouse thought the village job would take two to three hours a week. Pay is currently $1,500 per year. Severance said Millersport has issued seven zoning permits so far this year compared to 51 permits in the township.

Severance also administered the oath of office to Martin Knoble who had been promoted to fire lieutenant. Severance reported that he had discussed the contract covering the boat that ODNR has loaned to the fire department with ODNR Deputy Director Gary Obermiller. Sherrer had questioned earlier whether the village should be responsible for repairing any damage to the boat when the village is providing services to the ODNR-owned lake and that any damage would be likely due to the ODNR-mandated low water levels. Fire Chief Bob Price said he read the contract that the village isn’t responsible for any repairs. Severance said Obermiller assured him that ODNR would work with the village on any needed repairs. Council members, with Warner abstaining, approved the initial two-year contract for the boat by a 5-0 vote.

Council members agreed to set Trick or Treat from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29.

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