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Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio

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Officials explain need for 1/2% income tax hike

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

 

MOUNT VERNON — At a public forum on Tuesday night, city officials had the chance to make their case for a ½ percent income tax levy that's on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Auditor Terry Scott, Mayor Richard Mavis and Councilman Sam Barone answered questions from a panel of media representatives from KnoxPages.com, WNZR/Mount Vernon Nazarene University, the Mount Vernon News and WMVO/WQIO.

Scott began by reviewing cuts in local government funds over the past six to eight years, the city's 53 different funds and how only the general fund is under council's control. The general fund covers 15 city departments; 66 percent of the general fund staff is fire and safety forces. The last income tax was enacted 34 years ago. Scott said that passing the ½ percent income tax is essential “if we are going to maintain safety forces and maintenance.”

Mavis said the city considered a property tax vs an income tax but rejected it because the millage required to generate the $3.5 million needed would be over 6 mills. “There's no one going to vote for a 6-mill property tax; that's not reality,” said Scott.

Regarding residents who live in the city but work elsewhere and pay taxes where they work being required to pay the income tax, Mavis said that if they live here, they enjoy the city's parks and safety forces. He also said those residents still receive a 1 percent credit on income earned outside the city.

Barone addressed the flip side, noting that some residents who don't reside in the city but work in the city will pay the tax. “They may live somewhere else, but their livelihood is directly connected to this community, so it matters that the bridges they cross are sound and secure and it matters about the safety forces,” he said. He pointed out that the tax is on earned income only, not Social Security, pensions or disability income.

Responding to a question about the effect of Siemens' downsizing, Scott said it amounts to about a $600,000 annual reduction in revenue. Regarding cutting expenditures in light of an anticipated $1.2 million budget shortfall in 2017, he said payroll accounts were fully funded but other accounts received less than what was spent in 2016. He projects the actual shortfall to be closer to $250,000 to $300,000.

Barone cited abandoning the plan to add three more firefighters to help cover fire/EMS in Liberty Township, continued deferred maintenance, no major brick street projects for several years and positions left unfilled as things the city did to cut expenditures. “A lot has been done, and I think there's been a lot of economy on the part of a lot of people,” he said. “Now we have to dip into TIF funds and we'll have to repay that with interest.”

TIF (tax increment financing) funds are dedicated for specific purposes. For example, the Coshocton Avenue TIF fund is designated for Coshocton Avenue projects; likewise with the Central Business District and Sandusky Street TIFs.

Scott said the city will have to borrow as much as $300,000 from TIF funds at the end of the year. As with any loan, council must approve the loan, complete with amortization schedules and interest calculations. The general fund will repay the TIF funds.

As to how passing the tax levy will help the city's shortfall, Scott said that the city has been subsidizing the police and fire budgets for many years. The current ½ percent income tax generates $3.5 million a year; with another $3.5 million from a new tax, the $7 million will mostly cover the safety-service budgets.

Barone said safety is the single most important responsibility of local government. “We could cut virtually everything else we do in the general fund and we would still not have enough to cover the shortfall with fire and EMS,” he said. “Businesses have many choices where to locate. Nobody in their right mind will invest in a city that doesn't invest in itself. City government doesn't create jobs, but it can create an environment that is conducive to companies locating here.”

According to numbers from Fire Chief Chad Christopher, EMS billing and township contracts cover 72 percent of the fire/EMS budget. Responding to a question about how the city claims to be struggling to fund the fire department in light of Christopher's numbers, Scott said that the chief's numbers don't include everything. “Health insurance for their employees is not in the fire department budget, it's in the general fund,” he said. “That's $700,000 to $800,000 every year for health insurance.” Other costs such as Medicare tax aren't included either. Scott said those costs add more to the department's $5 million operating budget.

Barone said that if the additional ½ percent generates too much money, the money is still restricted to safety services. “If there is any surplus, which is highly unlikely, we have the ability to put that into a building or equipment fund [for use later]. That's highly unlikely; the needs are abundant,” he said.

He said that as funding is available, the city will look to add the three firefighters for Liberty Township, fill one police department position and one long-empty street department position. “There is no appetite on the part of council to expand,” he said.

Regarding the plan if voters reject the additional ½ percent tax, Mavis said that's been discussed internally, but he declined to give specifics. “Clearly it will curtail what we do,” he said, “but if you're talking about laying off people, that's not high on our priorities.”

 

Income tax explainer scott et al

Left to right, City Auditor Terry Scott, Mayor Richard Mavis, and Councilman Sam Barone at Tuesday's night's forum to explain the need for the 1/2% income tax hike which the voters will decide November 7th. - KP Photo

Knox County Grand Jury Indictments Oct. 3, 2017

MOUNT VERNON - The Knox County Grand Jury returned indictments for Aggravated Arson, Theft, Domestic Violence and more this week. The following list of defendants was acquired by KnoxPages.com from county records:

Paula S. Popham, 36, Theft, Felony of the 5th degree, Receiving Stolen Property, Felony of the 5th degree, and Failure to comply with order or signal of a police officer.

Kevin D. Courts, 44, Aggravated Arson, Felony of the 1st degree

Michael S. Dayton, 43, Domestic Violence, Felony of the 4th degree

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To read more local news on KnoxPages.com click here.

 

Coroner reports dog caused infant's death

MOUNT VERNON - Knox County Coroner Dr. Jennifer Ogle has released information discovered during the autopsy of a 1 month old baby. At 6:28a.m. on September 20th, Dr. Ogle's office was notified of a deceased infant at a residence on Wooster Road.

With assistance from the Knox County Dog Warden, the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation the investigation began.

Dr. Ogle indicates that the infant was attacked by one of the two dogs found in the home whie in a bassinet in his father's bedroom. The dog involved appeared to be a light brown, male pitbull/pitbull mix. The infant sustained injuries to the head resulting in his death. The autopsy revealed no trauma from any source other than the canine. The infant was healthy and well taken care of prior to his death.

To respect the family's privacy KnoxPages.com is not publishing the name of the infant nor the parents in this case. 

Magers Road Bridge project delayed for 2 more years

By Marty Trese, KnoxPages.com Editor

HOWARD - Motorists hoping to drive the Magers Road bridge which spans the Little Jelloway Creek from Howard-Danville Road to Cornish Road will have to wait at least two more years. That section of Magers had been used by residents as one of the few roadways to access the east side of Apple Valley.

County Engineer Cameron Keaton told KnoxPages.com the bridge was closed in November of 2016 due to excessive deterioration of the steel beams. Keaton said he applied for emergency bridge funds through the Ohio Public Works Commission and received a letter last month that the bridge was not approved for funding. Earlier this month, Keaton contacted the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to see if it would be possible to substitute the Magers Road bridge for another bridge that was already funded through the ODOT Local Bridge Replacement (LBR) program.

Magers Road closed sept 2017

This section of Magers Road near Howard will remain closed due to structural problems on the bridge for at least two more years - KP Photo

ODOT agreed to switch the bridges out and the Magers Road bridge construction project is scheduled to begin in July of 2019. Completion will likely be in October or November of that year.

The bridge will be a total replacement at an estimated construction cost of $377,000.

Keaton said, "By using ODOT LBR funding, Knox County will only have to pay 5% of the total cost of construction," approximately $18,850.

 

Dee Wood honored by City Council

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — City Council members began their Monday night meeting by honoring Dee Wood as she transitions from administrative assistant to the safety-service director to full-time grandmother. Wood is retiring on Friday after 14 years of service in the position.

Reading a proclamation recognizing her professional and loyal support, Mayor Richard Mavis said Wood has “fielded and resolved many public concerns during her tenure and done so with a sense of humor, cheerful spirit and desire for positive result.” “It's been a delight to get to know her over the years,” he said.

“Any time while I was president of council and asked her to do anything, she always did it with such joy,” said Councilman John Booth.

Dee Wood retiring

City Council honored Dee Wood on Monday for her 14 years of service to the city. Wood is retiring on Friday.
KP Photo by Marty Trese

Lucie McMahon of Community Development Consultants of Ohio spoke to council about fair housing laws. She said the principle behind fair housing can be summed up in this way: “People should be able to live wherever they can afford to live.”

She requested council to consider passing a resolution affirming its support for the fair housing concept. The city already has such a resolution in place, but it was passed many years ago. Council agreed that it would be good to update the resolution. Mavis said he supports reaffirming that the city supports fair housing.

“We do have some problems,” said Safety-service Director Joel Daniels, adding that he would welcome taking a look at an analysis McMahon prepared noting problems residents have reported with landlords.

Starla Benson, East High Street, kept the issue of traffic on Edgewood Road before council. After thanking city officials for “the attention the city has given our concerns, … and the Mount Vernon Police Department for increased patrols,” Benson said neighbors are requesting a meeting with city officials.

Specifically, Benson said the neighbors want city officials to present past plans regarding traffic flow on Edgewood, plans for a connector road laid out, and plans to add a road further east to connect Ohio 229 to Coshocton Avenue. Emphasizing a sense of urgency in light of development on the east end, Benson said, “Basically, what we want is maps laid out, maps presented and we can ask questions good or bad.”

Robert Bender, Provident Companies, gave council an overview of the proposed renovation of Meadow Ridge Apartments on Follin Avenue. Public meetings are scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. At Dan Emmett Elementary School and Friday at 1 p.m. at the apartment complex so that community members can learn more in-depth about the scope of the project.

Council authorized the city auditor to appropriate funds, pay bills and transfer funds. Appropriations included $800 from the sale of scrap metal. Council also authorized Daniels to bid for supplies, materials and equipment for 2018.

Council waived the third reading and adopted legislation approving the recommendations of the Knox County Tax Incentive Review Council regarding economic development incentives. The incentives cover several areas:
*4 CRAs (Community Reinvestment Areas): Connelll's Home Furnishings, First-Knox National Bank, Jacob Motorsports and Woodward Development Corp.
*6 EZ (Enterprise Zone) exemptions: Ariel Corp., Chesterland Productions PLL, Cooper Cameron Corp., Owens Corning Insulating Systems, Pisces Properties LLC and Sanoh America
*3 active TIFs (Tax Increment Financing) zones: Coshocton Avenue, Central Business District and Sandusky Street

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