July 1, 2016

Partly sunny

Brunswick seeks road levy on November ballot

BRUNSWICK — Brunswick City Council plans to put a 1.2 mill property tax levy on the November ballot to pay for street repairs throughout the city.

The levy is smaller than a 2.7-mill levy that voters rejected in 2011 and 2012. The first attempt was for a permanent levy. The second asked for a 20-year renewable levy.

Council members approved a motion to allow City Law Director Ken Fisher to draft language that would allow the county auditor to begin preparing information on the levy.

But more time is needed to decide whether to ask for a permanent levy or a limited duration.

“If we get this one wrong, we’re done,” said Councilman Mike Abella, Ward 1. “We can only go back to people so many times.”

Council has about three weeks to make a decision.

The reduced levy request was suggested by City Manager Jim Lukas.

The 1.2 mill levy would bring in about $836,828 a year, according to an estimate from Finance Director Todd Fischer.

Lukas said that amount would help offset losses the city has incurred from cuts to local government funds maintained by the state and federal government.

“With 1.2 mills, we’d be going after state and local government funds that the city has lost, which is a little more than $800,000,” Lukas said.

A 1.2 mill levy would cost a homeowner with a home valued at $150,000 an additional $56.70 per year. Fischer said the value of a Brunswick home was about $166,000 the last time the county did an estimate about two years ago.

“We’d be asking people in an average home worth $150,000 to pay an extra $5 per month,” Lukas said.

While Council members were more optimistic about a reduced levy request, some had reservations, including Councilman Anthony Capretta, Ward 4.

“The residents of Ward 4 have said ‘no’ twice to this levy,” Capretta said. He voted to support putting the levy on the ballot for voters to decide, but cautioned he was not yet at a point where he could support the levy.

Councilman Ron Falconi, at large, suggested the city find $836,828 to cut from its annual budget to put towards street repairs to show they were interested in sharing the burden of road improvements with voters.

When asked where he would cut $836,828 from what Lukas described as a bare-bones budget, Falconi suggested safety services cuts.

“One of the places no one wants to go is safety forces,” Falconi said. “Maybe we need to cut there.”

Other city officials immediately shot down Falconi’s request, arguing that voters recently approved an income tax in November aimed at maintaining the city’s safety services.

“The public was promised cuts to safety would not occur,” Lukas said.

Councilman Brian Ousley suggested the Council pass a resolution Monday moving forward with the 1.2 mill amount and argued for a 10-year levy.

“I think 10 years shows we’re serious about this and we’re going to get some projects done,” Ousley said.

Council members agreed to discuss the time frame more and make a decision at their next meeting, June 10. The Council has until the end of July to get all its paperwork filed to put a levy on the ballot.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or at lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.