Council debatesnext steps forrevenue shortfall


The City of Delaware must go back to the drawing board following the failure of the income tax increase proposal that was turned away by voters earlier this month. During its meeting on Monday, the council held preliminary discussions on where the city will turn next to generate revenue for road repairs.

A work session meeting will be held by the council on Monday, at which time city staff will present additional information and options will be further explored.

“I think we’ve got some hard decisions to make, and the information that’s been requested from staff is going to be part of that decision-making process,” Vice Mayor Kent Shafer (a council member at-large) said to lead the discussion.

“What the city has said collectively is that they don’t want to spend additional money on the roads,” Councilman Kevin Rider (representing the city’s Ward 4) said during the discussion. “I was adamant that no one on council or really anyone talked about if this doesn’t pass in the future then we’ll have to do such and such. Some of that did come out in the public, and it was perceived as a threat … The reality we’re stuck with is that it didn’t pass, and City Council’s role is, with feedback, to make decisions about what’s best for the city.

“So, while the community has voted not to give more money for what council and others agree is a critical need, we are confronted with the ‘then what.’ And we weren’t kidding. It’s a big deal. It’s needed. If we’re going to make the money available somehow, there are consequences to the decisions of the voters. And I respect 100% of the voters, but we’re going to have to consider if we’re going to partially fund through other means or not at all and let the voices speak entirely and let the roads deteriorate until they kick us all out of office and then repave the roads.”

Following Rider’s comments, Shafer stated, “I think we all agree that we can’t spend money that we don’t have, so the question is where are we going to cut back?”

Councilwoman Linsey Griffith (Ward 1) balked at the idea of making staff cuts to help address the revenue shortfalls given how “trim” the various staff already are while still providing high-level service to residents.

“I am shocked at what each department is able to do with the staffing that they have,” she said. “And I know that those are the whispers that I’ve already heard, let’s do a 5% or a 10% cut. I don’t know how we would even manage that. We wouldn’t be a functional city government if we made staffing cuts at this point.”

Speaking on the idea of removing the tax credit residents receive for working outside of Delaware, Griffith joked there would be “rioting in the streets” if such a decision was made but acknowledged it might be an option to consider.

“As I’ve been talking to leadership in the city and decision-makers, I’ve heard a lot of people saying, ‘Well, Delaware’s a bedroom community,’” Griffith said. “From day one, I have argued that we are not a bedroom community. We are a full-service, fully functioning city that does and should have an identity and brand all of its own. I think that’s part of some of the challenges we see with the development.”

Griffith added, “I know Councilman (Cory) Hoffman addressed this in an email earlier this week, that we have a very strong sense of place, but I don’t know that we have a very strong sense of community in Delaware that is overarching for the city. We definitely have a sense of community in different neighborhoods, but we don’t have a strong sense of community for Delaware. So maybe we need to look at taking away the tax credit because we aren’t just a bedroom community, and the (Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission) map showed that, that we have a lot of job development that is happening here. And we can have more if we focus on economic development.”

Griffith went on to say that while the city must find a way to stop the bleeding in the interim, she believes the “way forward” is for the city to refocus its efforts on driving economic development to diversify the city’s tax base.

“I think we have to go back to the ballot regardless,” Mayor Carolyn Riggle (a council member at-large) said. “There’s no two ways around it. But I think we need to do — I don’t want to say a better job of education — but people don’t understand where their property taxes went.

“It was poor timing to go (to the ballot) right now when property taxes went up so much. If your tax bill goes directly to your lender because your taxes are escrowed, you have no idea where that money goes. And people think the city gets that money. I got so sick and tired of explaining that over and over again when 87% of it goes to the schools. And until we educate people as to where that money goes and how little we get, then there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Hoffman (Ward 3) added, “We have to think outside the box. It’s going to be a tough road.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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