Earlier this year, the Delaware County Board of Commissioners approved a $5 per vehicle registration tax to be levied on all drivers in the county. Powell drivers could, perhaps, see that tax doubled pending a decision by Powell City Council on a newly introduced ordinance.
During its Tuesday meeting, council heard the first reading of an ordinance that would allow the city to implement an additional $5 registration tax on all motor vehicles registered within the city.
Ohio House Bill 62, which established the 2020-21 state transportation budget, went into effect on Wednesday. Included in the bill is the authorization of cities to levy the $5 vehicle registration tax in addition to counties already doing so.
City Manager Steve Lutz said Powell has approximately 12,500 vehicles registered within the city, which would mean an additional $62,000 for the city. Per the Ohio Revised Code, the monies collected from the tax can only be used for costs associated with public roads, highways, bridges and traffic signs.
Councilman Brian Lorenz expressed concerns about taxing residents twice per registered vehicle, given the county’s decision earlier this year. He later added, “I know we need the monies, everyone understands that. But I don’t know if the cost outweighs the benefit in the long run … We have to really work on putting something together that is fair and equitable. I’m not sure this really gets us there.”
“At this point, we simply don’t know when there’s ever going to be dollars available for roads maintenance … this is an opportunity to take advantage of (the tax),” Vice Mayor Tom Counts said during the meeting. “If, somehow, in the future, we do get additional funds to go towards our roads, there’s no reason why we can’t rescind this. But, at this point, I think this is the best, most prudent thing we can do.”
Councilman Frank Bertone welcomed the tax, saying he viewed it as a “use tax” for all who drive the city’s roads, himself included, especially given the city’s shortfall in available money for infrastructure improvements.
That shortfall has been a chief concern for the city for years, but council has been unable to gain the support of the community in backing its most substantial attempts at generating the necessary funds.
Last November, the city’s proposed income tax increase from 0.75% to 1.15% was voted down by nearly 60 percent of residents who submitted a ballot. Powell’s current income tax rate has been unchanged for 27 years and remains among the lowest in the state.
The ballot measure stemmed from the recommendation of the Citizens Financial Review Task Force, an 18-member committee of residents, who were assembled last year to conduct a comprehensive study of the city’s financial status and make suggestions for future capital improvements.
In its presentation of findings to Powell City Council last June, the committee suggested an additional $2 million in revenue would be needed for the city to keep up with future infrastructure repairs and improvements, with the only option for reaching that number being an increase in the city’s income tax rate.
While there was an option in the ordinance for council to suspend the rules requiring multiple readings of an ordinance before voting, Councilman Daniel Swartwout said he would want a second reading for “anything that imposes a new tax on our citizens.”
The rest of council concurred with Swartwout, and the ordinance will be considered again during its next meeting. That meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 16. Meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. and are held in the council chambers of the Village Green, located at 47 Hall St. The meetings are open to the public, and the public will have the opportunity to voice their own opinions during the discussion.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.