This November, voters within the City of Delaware will be asked to approve an increase in the city’s income tax rate to provide funding to improve Delaware’s transportation infrastructure. In a city-wide survey conducted in 2015, 50% of the respondents indicated they were concerned about traffic congestion in the city. The need to address improvements in and maintenance of our transportation system is not news to the city’s staff or elected officials. A comprehensive transportation study conducted in 1999 identified 50 important improvements needed in our roadway system.
When the decision was made in early 2016 to consider placing a transportation income tax levy on the ballot, I, along with other members of City Council and city staff, developed a method of rating these 50 projects by their return on investment, taking into account the estimated cost of the projects and the impact each project would have on reducing congestion and improving traffic flow.
This information was then discussed and reviewed by the entire City Council and decisions made on priorities. These decisions resulted in the publicized Transportation Plan Schedule, identifying the highest priority projects, their estimated costs, and the expected timeline for completion of new connections and roadway improvements.
The city’s engineering staff also developed a list of the roadway conditions of every street in the city and a detailed plan with estimated costs to address needed maintenance.
Once a detailed, comprehensive plan was established, the decision was made to move forward with placing the levy on the November ballot. We felt it was important to place this issue on this November’s ballot where the turnout for the election is expected to be historically high.
This provides the greatest level of input and decision making by our residents on the issue. City Council conducted four readings of the levy ordinance, that included two public hearings so as to give residents opportunity for input. In addition, city officials have held over 30 public information events to present information, take questions, and gather input regarding our transportation improvement plans.
The ballot request is for a .15% increase in the city’s income tax. For the average household, this represents an approximate increase in city income tax of $6.25 per month or $75.00 per year. It is important to note that even after the increase, Delaware will still have one of the lowest city income tax rates in Central Ohio. Yet this modest increase in the income tax rate will generate approximately $2.2M in funding, dedicated entirely to improvements in transportation infrastructure.
This funding can only be used for new connections and roadway improvements, increased maintenance of city streets, traffic signal timing and other improvements related to transportation infrastructure, including local funding used to leverage outside funding for large projects like “The Point.”
In addition, City Council and staff has made a commitment to continue to fund transportation needs at the same or greater levels as previously funded in our General Fund Budget. To ensure Council oversight of progress on these projects, city staff will report quarterly to the city’s Public Works/Public Utilities Committee to provides updates and review priorities.
The final decision now rests with our residents to decide if they are willing to invest in improving our important transportation infrastructure. Should the levy be approved on Nov. 8, I, along with my colleagues on Council and our city staff, are committed to being good stewards of both the increased revenue and the public trust that the approval signifies.
We will work diligently to guide the expenditure of these funds to continuously improve our transportation network, and increase the City of Delaware’s status as a great place to live, work and raise our families.
— Kent H. Shafer
City of Delaware