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City income tax meets estimates for first year after increase

Graphic by Janelle Patterson Green: New income tax levy fire equipment money carried forward from 2019 into 2020. Yellow: New income tax levy streets money carried forward from 2019 into 2020. Source: Marietta City Auditor Sherri Hess.

The additional 0.15 percent income tax Marietta residents and those employed within city limits paid in 2019 nearly met the official estimate projected in 2018.

“We got 98 percent of what we thought we would–that’s pretty good for the first year, especially when you don’t know how many businesses will start, or will leave,” said City Auditor Sherri Hess. “And the same goes for residents, we can’t predict who will move into the city and who might retire or move out.”

The city income tax was raised by voters in the 2018 general election on the premise of replacing aged fire trucks and equipment and adding paving funds to the streets budget.

It passed by the narrow margin of 11.96 percent, raising the income tax from 1.7 percent to 1.85 percent.

That additional 0.15 percent of local income was projected to generate $615,160 in revenue in 2019 for the fire department and $316,900 in 2019 additional revenue for streets paving.

Actual revenues, Hess reported were close to that estimate.

For fire capital outlay and equipment, the city brought in $609,025.19 last year.

For streets paving, the city brought in $304,512.61 last year.

“Now that money was not appropriated with the Jan. 1 (2019) budget because we were looking to first see it come in before making spends,” Hess explained.

What was spent with that new revenue was $24,228.09 in the new fire fund, 3.97 percent of 2019 revenue; and $225,838 of the new streets monies, 74.16 percent of the 2019 revenue.

With an additional $77,753.42 of 2019’s fire funds encumbered, Marietta City Council and the new mayoral administration have a remaining $507,043.68 available from 2019 to spend on fire equipment this year–before receiving any of the projected $605,826 in 2020 revenue.

If that additional revenue is realized, Hess confirmed, that allows for $1.1 million in spending on equipment this year for the city’s three fire stations.

“But we wanted to be able this year to spend with money we know we have, with revenues we had already received,” said Fire Chief C.W. Durham. “It will be up to council and the new administration to decide between options for either payment schedules or outright purchase.”

The fire department has asked for the mayor’s support of the purchase of three fleet replacements this year with those new funds:

• A fire engine to replace the oldest in the fleet (1987 make) for a 2019 payment of $500,000.

• A car to replace a 2004 model, for $60,000.

• An ambulance to rotate M3 to the fleet’s secondary truck (it was purchased in 2012), for $190,000.

“That’s the updated wishlist,” said Mayor Josh Schlicher. “We’re still talking about what might be better than the car, say perhaps a dual purpose truck that can haul as well as transport people.”

Safety-Service Director Steve Wetz also noted this week his priority to review the state of fire hydrants across the city and begin replacing the most worn and aged in the city stock.

“I’d prefer for our guys to land on scene and easily get those open instead of having to fight to crank them for water,” he said.

Ultimately Marietta City Council would need to be asked to bless any purchase with the income tax funds through both the legislators’ Finance Committee and Police and Fire Committee.

Durham said for the forseeable future, he anticipates needing the tax to continue updating rolling stock of equipment from turnout gear to air packs for the three station teams.

“We do have a perpetual need to replace to stay in compliance,” he noted.

Councilwoman Cassidi Shoaf said she anticipates future legislators (not in the current term) may also need to consider reducing the amount of income tax annually gathered for the fire department.

“But not in this current term or the next,” she explained. “I think there will be plenty of roads still not attended to once we purchase the major equipment the fire department needs, then it would have to go back to the voters if the city were to ask for a switch in proportions.”

Streets

Cash available on Jan. 1 from the streets new paving allotment was $48,674.

In 2019, 74.16 percent of the city’s new streets levy intake was spent.

In 2020, the estimated intake for the restricted fund is $302,913, which if realized offers the city $351,587.61 in spending for paving.

But Streets Committee Chairwoman Susan Boyer stated both during budget hearings at the close of 2019 and in her first committee meeting of the new term last week, that she intends to reserve those funds to city streets otherwise ineligible for other state and federal grants, rather than as local match leverage for large projects like the Ohio 676-Lancaster Street paving project due this year now that the waterline replacement beneath the state route is complete.

With that direction she called upon both ward councilmen and those serving at-large to submit their most concerning streets for review last week.

Requested estimates for review included four streets and six alleys and Councilman Gossett added another 15 requests for patchwork, alley repair and intersection repair this week.

Boyer also charged City Engineer Joe Tucker with the next step in remediation for the closure of Grandview Avenue, a tense topic last covered in detail on Nov. 13 during a public meeting held at Norwood United Methodist Church.

An estimate for right-of-way acquisition is expected for review at the joint Streets and Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 29 at 4 p.m. in the second-floor conference room of 304 Putnam St.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

If you go:

• Police and Fire Committee is next scheduled for today at 4 p.m. in the second-floor conference room of 304 Putnam St.

• Streets Committee will be combined with Finance Committee on Jan. 29 at 4 p.m. in the same room.

Source: Times research.

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