Mayor in favor of license fee, cites need to tap all available revenues

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By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Editor

While Groveport City Council considers whether or not to enact the collection of an additional $5 from motor vehicle license registration fees, Mayor Lance Westcamp made it clear where he stands on the issue.

“I’m in favor of it,” said Westcamp. “Other communities have done it. It brings more money back into the community to be used locally.”

Westcamp said the city’s January tax revenues are estimated to be significantly down compared to January 2020. He said the city must take advantage of all available revenue sources.

Groveport Finance Director Jason Carr said year-to-date January 2021 tax revenues are down $566,729 compared to year-to-date January 202.

“Our total decrease of $566,729 is being driven by the lower taxes paid from net profits (or business income tax),” said Carr. “Many of our larger businesses will make estimated tax payments for future periods and, based on the environment, we have seen a decrease in these estimated tax payments/final year-end reconciliation. Employment appears to remain stable as the withholding tax is consistent between years.”

“Council is going to have to make some tough financial decisions this year,” said Westcamp, noting possible rate increases this year for the Groveport Recreation Center and Groveport Municipal Golf Course.

Carr reported earlier in January that, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the recreation department operational receipts are down $1 million from the same time last year and the golf course operational receipts are down $66,766. He said that, to break even, city official have had to transfer money from the general fund to these two funds.

Still, some council members indicated they do not favor instituting the motor vehicle license registration fee.

The state legislature passed the $5 fee earlier this year. Council considered this legislation last spring, but postponed it because of the potential adverse economic impact it could have on the public due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Estimates provided by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission show that Groveport could collect an additional $59,000 if this tax was to be levied,” said Groveport City Administrator B.J. King.

Carr said money from the motor vehicle license registration fees would be used for paving and improvements to arterial roads, such as Main Street, Rohr Road, Hendron Road, Bixby Road, and others. He said if the legislation is approved, the city cannot start collecting the money until after July 1, 2021.

“It’s not much money, but with the state of the world, it’s not a good idea right now,” said Councilman Shawn Cleary.

Added Councilman Scott Lockett, “With times the way they are, it just sounds like a money grab.”

Council will consider postponing a decision on the legislation at its Feb. 8 meeting.

“You always have the option to reconsider it in the future,” said Carr.

Engineering firms
Council is considering legislation to seek qualifications statements from interested engineering firms to determine which firm, or firms, can perform various engineering services for the city outside the scope of the city’s own engineering department.

The legislation raised a red flag for Cleary, who noted the outside engineering costs the city paid over the last four years, has been: $192,118 in 2017; $400,905 in 2018; $225,675 in 2019; and $642,650 in 2020.

“We need to ride herd on them,” said Cleary.” “There’s been instances where outside engineering firms overcharged us or overprotected us when it’s just not necessary.”

King said the city “recoups a significant portion” of the outside engineering firm costs. He said the city collects fees from developers for such things as plan reviews and inspections.

“The Ohio Public Works Commission grants we receive also provide funds to pay for engineering costs,” said King.

“I’m glad to hear that. Numbers are numbers, it’s all about costs, if we are recouping some of it that’s great, but let’s keep an eye on it,” said Cleary.
Council will vote on the legislation at its Feb. 8 meeting.

Stream corridor zone
Council will also make a decision on Feb. 8 regarding an ordinance to amend the city’s storm water code to establish a 250 foot maximum width for a stream corridor protection zone.

“The current code has no maximum width for stream corridor protection zones,” said King. “The absence of a maximum size could become overly restrictive for the development of a property, for example a large portion of a property could become a stream corridor protection zone resulting in it becoming undevelopable. Many other cities have codes that cap the size of stream corridor protection zones.”

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