Voters get final say on Twinsburg tax hike, may limit city's ability to tax without vote

Issue on property tax also will appear on fall ballot

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Mary Papa, far left, and Sue Clark, far right, helped collect more than 1,000 signatures for two ballot initiatives.
  • Voters get final say in 4.9-mill tax levy passed by city council
  • Charter issue could lower millage council could approve to 2 mills
  • More than 1,000 signatures collected for both issues

TWINSBURG – Voters will get to decide the fate of a proposed charter amendment and a property tax levy this fall after resident organizers gathered hundreds of signatures on a pair of petitions to put measures on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The 4.9-mill tax levy at issue was authorized by Twinsburg City Council July 14 under its authority to levy up to 7 mills of property tax without voter approval. The charter issue, if passed by voters, would lower the millage that council could approve without voter approval from 7 mills to 2 mills.

The charter supersedes Ohio law, which allows communities to levy up to 10 so-called "inside" mills.

Twinsburg resident Sue Clark, who is chairing the effort, said that petitioners collected 1,065 signatures per issue, exceeding the 830 valid signatures required. Twinsburg City Council approved the language for the charter amendment Tuesday night. The referendum on the 4.9-mill levy also is expected to be on the general election ballot.

The July 14 legislation imposing the 4.9-mill tax increase calls for the millage to rise by 2.4 mills in 2021 and an additional 2.5 mills in 2022. Of the total, 1.4 mills would go for police and fire pensions, 1 mill for police and fire capital improvements and 2.5 mills for general fund operations of the police, fire and service departments.

Twinsburg’s current charter/inside millage is 0.3 for the police pension fund and 0.3 for the fire pension fund, or 0.6 total, which is the city’s only charter/inside millage. There also is a voter-approved 1.31 mills on the books for a parks bond issue.

Council was split 4-3 on the 4.9-mill tax increase, with Bill Furey, Scott Barr, Greg Bellan and Jo-Ann McFearin voting in favor, and Sam Scaffide, Maureen Stauffer and Daisy Walker voting against it.

Resident Michael Turle, who helped collect signatures, said this was “truly a historic moment” for the city.

“We would like to thank the many more residents who reached out to us, who were unable to make it to one of our signature opportunities that still wanted to sign and invited us to their homes,” Turle said. “We want to thank the numerous HOAs that reached out to us, inviting us to their cul-de-sacs, their garages, their sidewalks, providing us with locations and opportunities for our signature drive.”

Turle said that the charter change allowing council to impose up to 7 mills of non-voted taxes was placed on the charter in 1973, and it was intended to protect the city in case of an emergency.

Mayor Ted Yates said that the city has operated with revenue from inside millage that supported all general fund operations up until 1996, when former mayor James Karabec "gave up 4.9 mills to help a school levy pass.”

“Our inside millage has fluctuated from 4.2-5.7 mills prior to 1996.” Yates added.

According to Councilman Scott Barr, the 4.9 inside mills would restore taxation which was removed from property owners’ tax duplicates in 1997.

Finance Director Sarah Buccigross said previously the 4.9-mill increase means that for a $250,000 home, a resident would pay about $122.50 more in real estate taxes in 2021 and another $192.50 more in 2022 for a total increase of $315.

The 4.9-mill hike would generate about $3.2 million a year.

With 1 mill 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, according to information from the city.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@recordpub.com