Delaware City Council continued discussions regarding the potential levying of an additional $5 registration fee on all motor vehicles registered within the city during its meeting Monday.
Ohio House Bill 62, which established the 2020-21 state transportation budget, went into effect last July. Included in the bill was the authorization of municipalities to levy the $5 vehicle registration tax. The tax would be in addition to the $5 fee Delaware County already implemented on all drivers in the county beginning in 2019.
Should it be approved, the tax will be levied beginning in 2021, and all monies collected would be dedicated to road improvements. 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.
During the first reading of the ordinance on Jan. 27, City Manager Tom Homan said the tax would be expected to bring in an additional $180,000 to the city for road maintenance. On Monday, City Engineer Bill Ferrigno gave a presentation to council that highlighted the city’s shortfalls in funding for roadway maintenance and pinpointed particular areas where some of the funds could be designated.
Ferrigno’s presentation showed the annual funding for roadway maintenance to be at $3,135,000. However, the recommended funding level totals $4,805,000. A $1,250,000 shortfall in street paving funding exists, and there is a $375,000 difference between what is funded and what is recommended for street maintenance.
Ferrigno highlighted two particular areas he feels are important to traffic safety and would be important to designate a percentage of the funds toward, should the tax be approved.
The first, he said, would be addressing the back log in guard rails that need to be installed. Ferrigno specifically noted the need for guard rails by the ponds of the Kesselbrook development on Liberty Road, as well as on River Drive, and he said the city is in need of around $130,000 to fully catch up on the repair and installation needs.
Second, Ferrigno said the funds would be big for the city’s ability to install traffic-calming measures. He added a third measure that could use a better focus would the handicap ramps around the city, which he said should always be important, but they are “behind” on ramp maintenance.
“Based on where we are with some of the funding shortages, we can take a percentage — maybe 25 or 30% — of additional money coming in and say at minimum, we’re going to spend that percentage on these types of improvements to make sure that they can happen,” Ferrigno said.
Asked where the remaining funds would be directed, Ferrigno said, “anything and everything” associated with the street maintenance and repairs, as well as pedestrian paths and bikeways, which currently has a shortfall of $65,000.
Ferrigno said there is a particular need to increase the amount of asphalt the city can purchase annually to do its own patchwork on roads.
“We have a lot of needs right now, and with $180,000, we could carve out percentages for what I would call some high priority safety things,” Ferrigno went on to say.
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer expressed a desire to designate the funds coming in from the tax right away to a specific area or project in order to let the public know exactly where its money is being spent.
Mayor Carolyn Riggle echoed that sentiment, saying she would like to see the money be put toward something the city can point to, rather than simply patching up potholes. Councilman Chris Jones said he didn’t want to see the funds be put into a “big pot.” Rather, he, too, would like to see the money be identified for a specific need.
Councilman Drew Farrell cautioned the timing of passing the tax might not be advantageous for the city. He speculated the proximity of the tax to a ballot issue in the near future that would fully address the city’s road issues might not help the city to gain traction or support in the community.
The ordinance will go to another reading, as will the public hearing. The next meeting will be held Monday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.