London council votes to put income tax hike on May 3 ballot

(Published February 7, 2022)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

London City Council voted 6-1 to impose a 0.5% increase in income tax in the May 3 ballot. If passed, the tax would help fund the fire and emergency medical services department and build a new community center and police department.

The decision to go to the ballot was made at a special council meeting on February 1. The bill was introduced at the regular council meeting on January 20, when a motion was made to suspend the three-reading rule to allow an immediate vote on the legislation. When the motion did not get enough votes, the board scheduled two special meetings, one on January 26 and one on February 1, before the Board of Elections’ February 2 deadline to table questions for the ballot on February 3. may.

Council member Greg Eades voted ‘no’ on Feb. 1, saying he thought the process was rushed, but he praised city administrators and fellow council members for scheduling the special meetings to to give the community the opportunity to comment and ask questions. . He is also pleased with the town hall meetings the city has scheduled to allow for further discussion ahead of the May 3 election.

These town hall meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. on March 8, March 22, April 12 and April 26 at City Hall, 20 S. Walnut St.

At the February 1 meeting, Stacy Patterson was one of many residents who spoke to council about the proposed levy. Like Eades, she thinks the process is rushed. She also thinks that now is not the time to ask citizens for more money and that the other needs of the city should be prioritized.

“I just think we need a little more time and more consideration for citizens as we’re constantly reaching into their wallets,” Patterson said.

Phil Dowler was among residents who said the city should focus on fixing water and sewer problems rather than constructing new buildings. He compared the city to an old car with a failing transmission.

“You’re talking a lot of money, which would mean you’re going to put a set of nice shiny wheels on that old car,” Dowler said.

Residents Brent McDaniels and Joann Gray also referenced the city’s infrastructure issues in their comments.

“We need to solve our terrible water, sewage and flooding problems. We can do better than that,” McDaniels said.

“We need to fix this sewage system more than we need a new police department or a new recreation center,” Gray commented.

Resident Michael Norman said he would like to see the city meet all of its needs – a new community center, a new police department, funding for fire and EMS services, infrastructure repairs, etc.

“It doesn’t have to be one or the other,” he said.

Norman supported the council’s vote to put the legislation on the ballot now, but said he was unsure how he would vote on the levy. He encouraged city leaders to conduct a feasibility study to fix the city’s infrastructure, such as the studies done for the proposed police department and the proposed community center.

Resident Rob Newman, who has worked for the city of Columbus for 38 years, thanked council members for their work, saying he knows it can be a thankless job. He said he hoped London leaders had done the proper analysis and obtained legal advice to ensure the levy request would not exceed legal debt limits and meet all legal requirements.

Newman also implored city officials to work on infrastructure issues, especially flooding issues. Not everyone can afford to address these issues as they affect their individual homes, he said.

In response to some of the public’s concerns, Rex Castle, director of London’s Safety Service, said the streets service had completed one or two storm sewer projects each year for the past few years. The city collects fees from each resident’s water bills to fund storm sewer projects. Castle said the city is seeking grants for such projects, using storm sewer utility fees as matching funds to get more bang for its buck.

Council member Anthony Smith said he had experienced flooding issues at his home, so he understands residents’ concerns about infrastructure. He also noted that the cost of overhauling the entire system would be astronomical. In previous meetings, Mayor Patrick Closser said infrastructure repairs were underway.

Smith praised the city’s department heads, specifically mentioning the police chief, fire chief and director of parks and recreation.

“As a city, we’re constantly asking all of these leaders to run these departments to the best of their abilities, but we’re really not equipping them with everything they need,” he said.

Councilman Rich Hays, who sponsored legislation calling for the ballot issue, spoke of the city’s growth. From 2020 to 2021, the number of building permits issued in London has doubled. The school system is seeing an increase in enrollment at the kindergarten and first grade levels.

“We are definitely a city on the move. We are starting to build here. We are starting to attract more people. Other construction work will continue. It just starts to explode,” Hays said. “We have to keep pace.”

He noted that the current police department building is dilapidated. He said the proposed new police station and proposed new community center would be built to meet current needs and accommodate future growth.

“It’s actually an investment in the future,” Hays said.

Comments are closed.