Twinsburg reduces 2021 tax budget by 2.4 mills

Ken Lahmers
Correspondent
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TWINSBURG – After residents OK’d a charter amendment to limit to 2 mills the amount of inside property tax Council can enact without a public vote, Council on Nov. 10 revised the 2021 tax budget downward from a proposed 3 mills to 0.6 mill.

The action means the only inside millage the city will collect in 2021 will be 0.6 (0.3 each for the police and fire pension funds). In October, Council had approved an increase of 2.4 mills, with 0.7 mill each going to the two pension funds and 1 mill for police/fire capital expenses.

The revised tax budget shows the 0.6-mill total will generate a gross property tax revenue of $195,247 each for the police/fire pension funds. The only other millage on the books is a voter-approved 1.68 mills for city parks, which generate $1.09 million a year and will be retired at the end of 2021.

The city’s charter had allowed a maximum of 7 inside mills to be collected without a citizen vote, but Issue 24 lowered that to 2 mills. The issue passed 5,296 to 5,085 at the Nov. 3 election, according to final but unofficial results from the Summit County Board of Elections.

Council had approved a 4.9-mill property tax increase in July, which would have been phased in over two years (2.4 mills in 2021 and 2.5 mills in 2022). However, in response to residents’ opposition, Council repealed the full amount, but left the first 2.4 mills intact in the tax budget.

Issue 24 was the result of a citizens’ effort to get the charter amendment on the ballot. The inability to collect the additional 2.4 mills results in an annual loss of about $2 million for police/fire pensions and police/fire capital improvements.

“For now, we will preserve the 1.4 mills we still can enact to help stabilize our financial profile and future bond ratings,” said Mayor Ted Yates. “This issue has placed the city in a challenging financial position. The dedicated funds for police and fire [capital] will be now come from the general fund.

“We have limited tools to work with when it comes to generating funds for our essential operations, and this issue removed a vital source of revenue that is relied upon by most municipalities.”

Yates has said he will work with Council on how to handle the anticipated revenue loss. “We are a resilient city, and have overcome issues bigger than this,” he said.

Commenting on the city’s financial situation, Yates acknowledged the city has had a difficult time in the last four to five years with COVID-19 and other factors, but “we’re hoping to turn things around.”

OTHER BUSINESS

Council approved legislation to establish a COVID-19 business relief grant program with $40,000 in CARES Act funds the city has received. The program is designed to assist small local businesses and non-profit groups which have been impacted by the pandemic.

“This will provide at least some help for struggling businesses,” said Yates.

Finance Director Sarah Buccigross reported the city has received about $1.64 million to deal with the coronavirus crisis. The money is going for things such as safety payroll costs, thermal temperature kiosks, touchless restroom fixtures, PPE, cleaning supplies and the multi-agency computer-aided dispatch system.

City resident Kraig Shipley was appointed to a vacant seat on the five-member planning commission through March 31, 2022.

Yates read a proclamation recognizing Stan Jewell on his 100th birthday. He is a U.S. Navy veteran, a VFW Post 4929 member and a city resident since 1945.

Thomas Queen of U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce’s office presented five U.S. flags which have flown over the U.S. Capitol to the police and fire departments and the VFW Post.

Yates introduced Michael Brown, the city’s new human resources director, to Council, and noted the recently appointed committee studying racism as a public health crisis has started to meet. “There are some great people on the committee, and we’re looking for positive results from their discussions,” he said.

Director of Planning and Community Development Larry Finch reported the Community Improvement Council is discussing creating three downtown redevelopment zones around the Township Square, and will bring recommendations to Council in December or January.

Fire Chief Tim Morgan reported October was the department’s all-time busiest month, with 281 calls answered. For the year to date, the department is about even with last year’s call volume.

Public Works Director Chris Campbell reported branch chipping has been completed for the year, and will return in the spring. He said the department “is knee deep in [collecting] leaves” right now, and pickup will continue until winter weather sets in.

Contact the newspaper at 330-541-9430, or twinsburgbulletin@recordpub.com.