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ELO must wait on tax

December 17, 2012
By JO ANN BOBBY-GILBERT - Staff Writer (jgilbert@mojonews.com) , Morning Journal News

EAST LIVERPOOL - With revenue from a 5-mill streets levy passed in November not to be collected until 2014, at least some city officials are hoping some work can still be done this year, even if it means borrowing against levy funds.

The resolution passed by City Council to place the issue on the ballot was worded such that collection will not begin until 2014.

Whether or not it was a mistake on someone's part is not clear, with council's finance committee Chairman Sherrie Curtis saying simply, "It's how the resolution was worded," when asked last week.

The issue came to light earlier in the week when county Chief Deputy Auditor John Goempel mentioned to the media he had called Mayor Jim Swoger after reading in the paper that the city expected to begin using the levy money in 2013 on street projects.

He said Swoger was "surprised to learn" that money would not be collected next year, but the following year.

"Someone screwed up, and it wasn't us or the board of elections. The ballot language says it isn't to be collected until tax year 2013, which is actually collection year 2014," Goempel said. Tax collections are always a year behind.

Election board Director Adam Booth agreed that the board must use the ballot language given, which was filed by City Council's clerk.

"We didn't draft the ballot language. That was passed by their council. We didn't question it. I just thought they had done it that was for a reason," Booth said.

If the city wanted to collect on the levy in 2013, council should have stated it was to commence being collected in tax year 2012, according to Booth.

Swoger conceded Thursday that he was not aware the ballot language called for collection to begin in 2014, saying, "I'm not sure (the resolution language) was a mistake. The money is there. Whether a mistake or not, we'll handle it."

He said he promised residents that the streets will be resurfaced with the money and they will be, even if the money has to be borrowed until collection can begin.

"I think that's something we can do. I haven't talked to anybody (on council) yet," he said.

Curtis also said last week, "I was hoping we could secure a loan (against the potential levy revenue) to start doing some work this summer, so citizens can see we are, in fact, serious about doing the work."

Although admitting it will cost the city a bit more in interest, Curtis said it would be worth it to show the citizens council is serious in its commitment to get their streets done.

She said she doesn't know how other council members feel about such a plan, although during an interview last week on another subject, Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell said he planned on making a similar suggestion.

Curtis plans on addressing the issue at the beginning of next year with other council members.

Meanwhile, referring to the comments offered up by Goempel and Booth, Curtis said, "If someone's just trying to make someone (in the city) look bad, it's too bad they can't just celebrate and be happy that citizens passed our levy and that we can finally address issues on our neighborhood streets."

The levy will generate $430,000 annually over its five-year life, and officials have said it is crucial to repairing neighborhood streets, which are in dire need of repairs.

Officials have said the city has exhausted every source of federal and state funding for street repairs in doing recent projects on major thoroughfares, including state Route 39, state Route 267 (Lisbon Street), St. Clair Avenue, Dresden Avenue, Bradshaw Avenue and Maine Boulevard and some surrounding streets.

With federal and state funding not available to repair neighborhood streets, officials have said local support was needed.

Swoger emphasized that any street project undertaken in 2013 in regard to the levy funding or money borrowed against it will likely be a small one, saying, "Then, next year, we'll take off. I promised, and it will come true. Right, wrong or indifferent, some amount of work will be done to streets."

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Reporter Tom Giambroni contributed to this story.

 
 

 

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