The city of Delaware is considering asking voters to approve an income tax levy in order to maintain and improve its streets.
“A proposed 0.15 percent income tax levy would generate an additional $2.2 million annually that would be divided between network resurfacing and maintenance, and network improvements,” said an executive summary sheet given to City Council recently.
In a 2015 Community Attitudes Survey, half of Delaware residents said they were dissatisfied with traffic congestion in the city, and a quarter of the residents were unhappy with the condition of the roads.
“If we want the future to be better and brighter with respect to our transportation system, it’s going to require funding,” City Manager Tom Homan said at a City Council retreat last Saturday. “It all comes back to money.”
City engineer William Ferrigno told council there were 52 improvement and expansion projects of varying priority that have been identified for the city. Some of those projects could be development-driven, or receive funding from the county, state or federal government, but there are many that the city would be responsible for. The city also has a five-year resurfacing program, as well as maintenance plans for street lights, guardrails and other needs.
“We’ve spent significant time over the past year trying to assess all this infrastructure, and put our pencil to a reasonable replacement cycle,” Ferrigno said.
The city’s public works department has said that the longer a street is allowed to deteriorate, the more it will cost to restore it. For example, the cost of asphalt has increased more than 200 percent in a decade.
“The result: we focus limited resources on heavily traveled arterial roads to the exclusion of residential streets, which comprise 46 percent of all roadways,” said the executive summary.
After hearing collection data from finance director Dean Stelzer, council members discussed the millage amount, credits for residents who work in other cities, debt service and borrowing limits, and what projects would be funded. Stelzer said the levy could raise money needed for up-front matches on government grants.
“As a council, you can tell the voters, we will get the Point done,” Stelzer said, referring to where routes 36 and 37 split. “We hope to leverage federal money (to fund the project). If we don’t, (there are) a lot fewer other improvements we’ll be able to make, but we could do it.”
“The Point is at the top of my mind,” said Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle.
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer suggested having a top tier of projects that the levy would fund. Discussion included Curtis Street, Glenn Parkway, Houk Road, Merrick Boulevard, Stratford Road, Troy Road, Vernon Avenue and William Street.
“Projects that have individual merit can stand the test of time,” Ferrigno said.
There was also discussion on forming a citizens committee and getting public input on what projects they considered to be the most important. City attorney Darren Shulman said the city can’t make campaign material, but can provide objective information on the issue.
Finally, there was talk on whether the levy should be permanent or for a set amount of time.
A levy would require the approval of council before it would appear on the ballot. Since the three-hour retreat was a work session, no action was taken.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.