November 18, 2014

Medina
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Levy votes don’t pave the way for repairing Brunswick roads

BRUNSWICK — Even after the city lowered its levy request for roads after two failures at the polls, voters still said no on Tuesday.

The city has no dedicated revenue for road maintenance and repairs, and the 10-year, 1.2-mill levy would have brought in $836,828 annually. That amount is nearly three times the $245,000 from vehicle licensing fees the city gets to put toward road repairs.

Service Director Pat McNamara said that isn’t enough to keep up with the aging roads.

“Without any new money, nothing is going to be different,” McNamara said. “The administration is disappointed, but we remain firm in our resolve to get something done.”

McNamara said the funding only allows the city to repair the streets in the most dire condition and the rest is put toward matching funds for state and federal grant dollars to do major road repair projects. He said the money the city can put toward streets often is less than the money the city uses to purchase road salt.

“Our salt budget is between $250,000 and $270,000 annually,” he said. “That’s alarming when you consider we’re spending more money on the product that makes the roads deteriorate than the roads themselves.”

But McNamara said the administration will continue to look for a way to get voters to approve road repairs.

In 2011, the city asked for a 2.7-mill permanent levy. Last year, it asked for the same amount, but made it a 20-year levy. This year, officials cut the millage by more than half and shortened the term to 10 years.

The measure lost by only 3 percent this year, compared to 20 percent in 2012.

“I’m trying to drill down to why the voters said no,” McNamara said. “I’m throwing around the idea of maybe conducting a survey via our website to get some feedback and tell us what we need to do.”

Finance Director Todd Fischer said he’s preparing the city’s 2014 budget and can’t find a way to get more money to set aside for road repairs. Nonsafety service staff already has been cut to the lowest level possible, Fischer said.

“We’ve reduced our staffing levels, and tried to dig ourselves out of financial holes and obligations from the past,” he said. “We’re trying to be fiscally responsible and not borrow money.”

He said that while some cities take out large loans to fund road repairs, the current city leaders have been more conservative.

“You do what you can afford, whether we have a levy or we don’t,” he said. “We’re trying to be fiscally responsible and not borrow money hoping we get more later.”

As for 2014, Fischer said the majority of the $245,000 the city has for road repairs likely will go to help support grant projects.

“The city might be able to come up with enough money with grants to do three or four roads,” he said. “But that still leaves 390-plus roads in the city without repairs.”

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