Ballot issues get hearings at City Council

By Gary Budzak - [email protected]

Two probable fall ballot issues will be the subjects of public hearings before Delaware City Council tonight.

At 7:30 p.m., a public hearing is scheduled on proposed changes to the city’s charter. The charter is the governing document used by the city.

Every eight years, the charter is reviewed and voters will decide whether to accept any proposed changes to the document. For the last couple of months, a city-appointed charter review commission, guided by city attorney Darren Shulman, has made its way through the document.

The recommendations of the commission were given in a report to council by chair Mary Jane Santos. “We had homework every time we met, and we went through this in an expeditious manner,” Santos said at a previous council meeting. “We went through it word by word.”

The proposed changes were made in mind with making the charter easier to read, she said.

Santos said the members felt more wards are needed, but lacked data to propose putting the question before voters. A similar conclusion was reached when it came to electing council members by majority vote. She said there should be studies undertaken on the two concepts.

In answer to a council question, there was no change to the three-reading process that council uses on ordinances. Santos said the public should be allowed to continue to hear up to three readings.

Shulman said a lot of minor changes were made to modernize the language, such as changing terms like “journals” to “electronic records.” Santos said there were also grammatical changes, such as changing sentences that began with the word “but.”

Council can accept or reject the proposed changes. If council accepts the commission’s recommendation to place the issue before voters, council would submit the amendments to the Delaware County Board of Elections for the November ballot. Shulman said that because there are so many proposed changes, it will be presented as a single ballot issue.

At 8 p.m., a public hearing is scheduled on a potential city income tax rate increase to fund road improvement projects like The Point.

In recent months, city officials have held a series of “Moving Delaware Forward” meetings regarding transportation plans. Last week, there was a meeting with Trillium Condominiums at Willow Run residents. At the meetings, the city has fielded questions and talked about potential projects, such as making The Point four lanes under a new railroad bridge; extending Merrick Boulevard to provide a direct connection to Troy Road; and extending Valleyside Drive to link William Street and Central Avenue.

To do these projects, the city said it would need voters to increase the current 1.85 percent income tax rate to 2 percent. City officials have said that the rate increase, if approved by voters, would generate about $2.2 million annually.

City documents describe raising the “income tax (rate) by (o.15) percent from the current rate of (1.85) percent to a rate of 2 percent, beginning Jan. 1, 2017, for the purpose of pay the costs of improving and maintaining the transportation and parking system in the city by constructing and reconstructing municipal roads, highways, streets, bridges, sidewalks, bikeways and parking facilities, acquiring real estate and interests in real estate therefor, and paying the debt service charges and related costs of securities issued to pay the costs of those projects.”

During the hearings, the public is allowed to speak on those issues. Speakers are generally given three minutes and asked not to repeat other people’s comments. There is also a time set aside during the meeting for public comment on matters not on the agenda.

If the first hearing ends before 8 p.m., council may decide to continue down the agenda before beginning the second hearing.

Aug. 10 is the deadline for local issues to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

City Council chambers are on the second floor of City Hall, at 1 S. Sandusky St.

By Gary Budzak

[email protected]

Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.