Twinsburg mulls phased-in tax hike

Increase of 4.9 mills would take 2 years

KEN LAHMERS
Correspondent
Kent Weeklies

TWINSBURG — An alternative proposal to increase the city’s charter, or unvoted millage has been recommended to Council by the finance committee, with legislation expected to be on Council’s June 9 meeting agenda.

On May 12, the finance panel recommended a 4.9-mill increase be enacted so it would be fully collected starting in 2021. However, before Council’s May 26 session, the panel recommended splitting the increase, with 2.4 mills to be collected starting in 2021 and the remaining 2.5 mills to be collected starting in 2022.

With 1 mills for parkland debt coming off the books in 2021 and another 0.3-mill in parkland debt coming off in 2022, the actual hike for property owners would be 1.4 mills in 2021 and 2.2 mills in 2022, or a total increase of 3.6 mills over the two years.

Finance Director Sarah Buccigross said for a property valued at $250,000, that would mean a resident would pay about $122 more in real estate taxes in 2021 and just over $192 more in 2022 for a total increase of $315.

Councilman Scott Barr has said the 4.9 inside mills would restore taxation which was removed from property owners’ taxes in 1997. The proposed increase is within the 7 mills the city’s charter allows Council to enact without a public vote. The only other charter millage the city now collects is 0.3 mills each (0.6 total) for the police and fire pension funds.

The 4.9-mill hike, which would generate about $3.2 million a year, would increase the pension funds millage by 0.7 each, while 2.5 mills would go into the general fund for public safety and public works salaries and 1 mill would go for public safety capital expenditures.

Buccigross said residents who have properties valued at $250,000 pay about $5,048 in real estate taxes each year, with the city getting only $150.43 of that. The schools get about $3,576, and the remainder goes to Summit County and for special purposes.

“Although nobody wants to raise residents’ taxes, I think splitting the increase over two years is a reasonable and fair way to enact the increase,” said Councilman Bill Furey.

“This proposal is a compromise,” added Mayor Ted Yates. “Raising taxes is a tough issue for Council, but we want to preserve services for the public for many years to come.”

Councilwoman Jo-Ann McFearin explained if the city doesn’t do anything to increase revenue, it may have to look at cutting certain services, one of which could be free trash/recycling pickup.

However, Councilwoman Maureen Stauffer said she is concerned about the timing of the increase since many people are or have been out of work because of COVID-19. Another concern of hers is not allowing residents to vote on the increase.

Law Director David Maistros said the 4.9-mill increase could be voted on by the public and could go for the intended purposes, but it would not be considered part of the inside charter millage.

Councilman Sam Scaffide expressed concerns about Council voting on the entire 4.9-mill package in one piece of legislation. “I might support the first-year hike, which would include the 1.4 new mills for the pension funds, but I’m not sure about the second-year hike,” he said.

Councilwoman Daisy Walker cautioned Council to take its time before deciding the issue and “not rush into anything.”

Furey said that if collection of about half of the millage increase is to start in 2021, Council would have to approve the legislation by July 30.

In response to some citizens’ opinions that Gleneagles Golf Course should be sold to boost city revenue, Maistros explained even if it is sold, the deed states the money would go to the Ethan’s Green Homeowners Association and not the city.

“Just because Council can enact the tax without a vote, is it the right thing to do, especially now? Absolutely not,” said resident Michael Turle. He thanked Stauffer for suggesting that the tax go to the voters, citing that a 0.25 percent income tax previously was OK’d and later rescinded by voters.

He added if the police and fire pension funds have been underfunded for years like some Council reps have stated, why wasn’t that situation addressed previously? “That’s inexcusable,” he said.

The latest financial report shows the city started 2020 with balances of $8.08 million in the general fund and $17.77 million in all funds. Those balances at the end of April were $8.9 million and $16.28 million, respectively.

Legislation to decrease 2020 capital expenditures by $1.1 million will be on third reading at Council’s June 9 meeting. City officials previously announced they expect to cut payroll by about $1.6 million on an annualized basis.

In other action May 26, Council OK’d amendments to the city’s codified ordinances dealing with the organization of the fire department. “Cadets and recruits” will be added to titles of department personnel.

Maistros explained the amendments allow the mayor to authorize the future employment of part-time and cadet/recruit personnel consistent with monetary appropriations available from Council.

The appointment of David Marcovitz to the architectural review board through March 31, 2023 also was approved.

Contact the newspaper at 330-541-9433, or twinsburgbulletin@recordpub.com