Pickerington to spend $10,000 on tax literature

Pickerington city council plans to spend $10,000 to educate residents about the proposed income tax increase on the November ballot.

If voters approve the increase, the income tax for people who work in Pickerington would raise from 1 percent to 2 percent. Pickerington residents who do not work within the city would not be affected.

Councilmen Michael Sabatino and Brian Sauer voted against allocating city funds to campaign literature. The two had also opposed placing the tax issue on the ballot.

Sauer said he did not want to spend $10,000 of the taxpayers’ money for mailers that would encourage them to pay more taxes.

Sabatino said that creating literature that touts the tax increase as "the greatest thing since sliced bread" would more appropriately be "a function of a political action committee."

"There is well established case law (that informational literature) is an appropriate and just use of city funds," Councilman Keith Smith said.

City Manager Tim Hansley explained that the mailer would help residents understand that "to vote ‘yes’ is a better deal than having property taxes increase" and that the tax would only impact those working in Pickerington.

Only 15 percent of city residents work in Pickerington.

The council will vote on the second reading of the literature ordinance at a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

Sauer and Sabatino opposed placing the issue on the ballot because they said the city has not finished researching cost cuts and that the proposed issue would generate a revenue surplus.

Sauer advocates no income tax for residents who do not work in Pickerington. Currently they pay 0.5 percent.

Sabatino supports a tax increase for Pickerington workers but at 1.5 percent instead of 2 percent, which would allow the city to maintain services without "rolling in money."

"Representing the city as rolling in money is a dramatic misrepresentation of the situation," Councilman Jeff Fix said.

Pickerington is in debt $30 million and will face bankruptcy within the next five years unless something changes. By increasing the income tax to 2 percent the debt could be paid within 10 to 20 years as opposed to 40, Fix said.

Councilman Brian Wisniewski said that by asking for more money, the city is taking a "conservative approach" in that it would not request another tax hike if new problems arose in the next few years.

Pickerington has several pending lawsuits that if lost, could cost the city large sums of money, Wisniewski said.

Sabatino said the city was "not waving a surrender flag yet," and alternatively "a lot of wealthy people could die and the city could get a windfall on the estate tax."

"Nothing prevents the city from down the road changing the ordinance," Wisniewski said. "If there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, (the council could) give everybody a refund."

In other business, the council voted to spend $9.98 million to expand the wastewater treatment plant.

Of the eight contractors who bid on the job, Reynolds, Inc. won with a bid that was $600,000 lower than the next closest company, Wisniewski said.

The contract includes a 10-percent contingency in the case of unexpected costs.

Originally, the city discussed the expansion four years ago. To pay for the project, they estimated 350 new homes would need to tap into the sewage system.

"That was not acceptable and it put (the project) off for some time," Wisniewski said.

New plans were drafted and three years ago the city raised its water and sewage rates to prepare for the expense.

It is now time to "get started because the EPA is breathing down our necks," Wisniewski said.

Sabatino said he would abstain from voting until he could review a history of Reynolds’ completed jobs to see how closely they remained on budget.

On another topic, Smith announced that the city’s pool earned more money than "the business plan projected for the year, which is a good thing."

Councilwoman Cristie Hammond said a report that "the pool lost money was simply not true."

Public hearing scheduled on trash collection

Pickerington city council will host a public hearing at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 to allow residents to voice their concerns regarding trash collection.

The city’s contract with Waste Management ends in September; however, the council nixed a new contract with the company after some residents complained about the mandatory recycling fee of approximately $2 extra per month.

Councilman Keith Smith said Pickerington would post the new trash bids on the city’s Web site at www.ci.pickerington.oh.us.

"I fully expect the safety committee to take action to recommend one particular bid at the next council meeting," Smith said.

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