During its meeting on Monday, Delaware City Council held a second reading for ordinances and resolutions pertaining to the city’s proposed income tax increase and the renewal and reallocation of an existing parks levy.
The agenda included two resolutions regarding the two ballot measures the council would need to approve for submission to the Delaware County Board of Elections, as well as three ordinances tied to the possible outcomes of the ballot measures. The three ordinances would not be voted upon by the council until after the results of the March 19 ballot are finalized and the city has a directive from voters on what to enact.
Currently proposed is a five-year income tax increase of 0.35, which would move Delaware’s rate from 1.85 to 2.20%. If approved, 0.15 of the additional tax would be earmarked for street improvements, and 0.15 would be earmarked for the city’s Capital Improvement Plan. The remaining 0.05 would contribute to the city’s General Fund.
In total, the income tax increase is estimated to generate an additional $7 million in funding for the city.
Also under consideration is a renewal of sorts for the existing 0.15% parks levy approved by voters in 2008 which would allow the Parks and Recreation Department to utilize those funds for operating purposes rather than only toward debt services as the levy is currently implemented.
Monday’s meeting included scheduled public hearings as well as Public Works Director Bill Ferrigno and Parks and Recreation Ted Miller speaking on the need for the community’s support.
“When I came to Delaware in 1995, we had around 95 miles of public streets to take care of,” Ferrigno said. “Now, we’re over 170 miles of public streets. That’s over 70 miles; we could build a road from Delaware to Dayton and that’s what we now have to take care of because that’s what we have built.
“When development builds, there are a lot of positives that come out of it — new community members, we get a lot of development from it, we get businesses and industry and the associated employees. But we also get the infrastructure and have to take care of that infrastructure. That’s an 80% increase in our roads since then, and we have attempted, a couple of times, to increase revenues to take care of infrastructure and have failed. Because of that, we have a significant backlog now with infrastructure.”
With the additional revenue generated over the five-year tax increase, Ferrigno said the city could work toward paving 100 of the poorest condition streets, meaning improvements in all four of the city’s wards. He added that the revenue would allow for the paving of all the public alleys in the city.
Ferrigno went on to say additional levy funds would allow for the hiring of additional street and traffic maintenance staff, quicker repairs to streetlight and sidewalk issues, and an improved level of service in street sign replacements, pavement striping, and asphalt repairs.
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer said, “You hear the comments that, ‘Well, the city shouldn’t allow development because then we wouldn’t have these roads (to take care of).’ That’s not a realistic approach. For one, people want to live here because it’s a great place to live, work, and raise a family. And two, there’s a housing shortage, and we need housing, so not developing and not growing is really not an answer. The answer is we have to fund the kind of street maintenance we need.”
Building on Shafer’s comments, Ferrigno noted the streets in dire need of repair aren’t just streets resulting from new development but streets that have been in the city for quite some time.
“It’s not a new development problem, it’s a city problem,” Ferrigno said. “Our community wants quality infrastructure, quality pathways to walk on, lighting, and good-quality streets. That comes with a price tag, and if the community is willing to invest in that, then we can certainly deliver some great improvements in safety and street quality.”
Councilman Adam Haynes added, “Things are expensive now, and it’s even more expensive in the construction area. So it’s going to get more expensive with the more roads we have.”
Ferrigno added, “There are things outside of our control, and the way we respond is we just do less with the same amount of money we have. That’s how we’ve traditionally done it, and I think most responsible communities budget that way, that you just can’t do as much as you want to do.”
Speaking on the importance of being able to use the existing parks levy for operating needs, Miller said expansion and growth also present challenges to his department. Miller said that as Delaware continues to grow, he is hesitant to expand park services to ensure the department is able to maintain what’s already there.
“We have a lot of parks that are very old now and need updates,” Miller said. “We’re just trying to make sure we can keep these parks open and update them the way they want to be. Really, what it comes down to is clean restrooms, no trash, and good facilities in the parks. That’s really what goes a long way toward the level of services within the park.”
The resolutions will go to a third reading at the next council meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 13.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.