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Village to seek levy renewal

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Village Council will seek a renewal rather than a reduction of its current property tax levy on the May ballot, Council members stated at their Jan. 3 meeting. While Village Manager Mark Cundiff, Finance Director Sharon Potter and Council members Karen Wintrow and Judith Hempfling have been meeting to find a way to seek a reduced amount of levy revenue, the group has determined that the current levy should be renewed at this time.

The business item was discussion only, and no votes were taken. However, Council needs to file a request to put the levy on the May ballot by Feb. 2, and will likely approve the request at its Jan. 18 meeting. The five-year levy, which provides about $750,000 annually for the Village general fund, will expire at the end of 2011.

Council members have discussed the levy issue over the past year, and several members initially stated they hoped to seek a reduced amount of levy millage rather than a renewal of the current level, which is 8.4 mills. However, in July Council members agreed that due to decreased revenues they would likely need to seek a levy in the same millage. After renewed attempts to find ways to reduce the amount, Council and Village staff on Jan. 3 again emphasized the need for a levy renewal.

“We need a levy at the current rate to meet operational costs, and we still need belt tightening,” Cundiff said at the meeting.

At the Jan. 3 meeting Council members also asked Village staff to show how the five years of levy money has been spent by the end of January.

“I believe we can show the money was well spent,” Wintrow said.

In an interview last week, Cundiff stated that the five-year levy, which expires the end of this year, has made several significant capital projects possible, including the re-paving of almost 70 percent of Village streets, a Gaunt Park pool renovation, a new roof at the Bryan Center and the hiring of a Village economic sustainability coordinator. The levy has also contributed to some operational costs during this time.

The levy income has been especially important given a decline in Village income tax revenues during the past five years, Cundiff said, stating that the 2010 Village tax income is about equal to the 2006 income tax revenues, although expenses during that time have risen. The Village income tax revenues seem to be coming back, but slowly, Cundiff said.

The Village is also looking at a significant drop in other revenue sources, including investment income, which has gone from about $118,000 yearly in 2006 to about $2,000 currently. And state leaders have recently announced their intention to cut the state-funded Local Government Fund, which provides the Village about $169,000 annually. A state legislative leader also recently stated that he hopes to eliminate the estate tax, which in the past has provided annual amounts ranging from $50,000 to $200,000 to Village coffers.

Longterm, the Village needs more jobs to help raise income tax revenues, Cundiff said, stating that Village Economic Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Wildman, who was hired a year ago, continues to work on the economic development front.

In other Council Jan. 3 business:

• Council unanimously passed the second reading of two ordinances, one to amend the Village flood plain ordinance to comply with new federal regulations, and the other to amend the Village personnel policy for cost of living raises for Village employees. The new personnel policy gives the Village manager greater flexibility in determining raises, including consideration of current economic conditions.

• Council postponed the second readings of ordinances that would add one or two alternate members to both the Village Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals. The delay was requested so that language in the ordinances could be clarified.

• Council unanimously appointed David Ganz as a new member of the Community Access Panel, or CAP.

• Jean Payne of the CAP announced that that group will increase the number of Village meetings that it covers on Channel 5, in order to provide greater transparency of Village government. Currently the group films and broadcasts the meetings of Village Council, the Miami Township Trustees, Planning Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals and the school board. The CAP will now also cover the Environmental Commission, the Energy Board, the Human Relations Commission and the Economic Sustainability Commission.

• Council unanimously approved a revision of its Rules and Procedures, which is updated annually. Council member Lori Askeland and Clerk Judy Kintner worked on the document to provide greater clarity and more detail. The document can be accessed at the Village Web site, http://www.yso.com, the Village clerk’s office and at the library.

• Council will meet next on Tuesday, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m. at Council chambers in the Bryan Community Center. The meeting is postponed a day from its regular time in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on Monday, Jan. 17. Village offices are closed for King Day.

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