Amelia considers levies

July 29th, 2010    Author: Brett A. Roller    Filed Under: News

The Amelia Village Council has begun a search for revenue after the finance committee voted two to one against recommending a police levy for the November ballot.

Finance committee member Tim Rosser said the committee reviewed the merits of a 2 mill, 6 mill, and 10 mill policy levy. He said the committee also discussed placing an operating levy on the ballot.

“We also looked at the possibility of an operating levy due to the fact that the police levy will support the police primarily. We do have other issues in the village due to lack of funding,” Rosser said.

He said specifically the zoning administration, police department, public works department, and village administration are all in need of increased funding.

"If we look towards the police levy, then I'd just like to have some ideas from council. What do we do with the other areas, administrative, zoning, public works, in the future," Rosser said. "I would like to see what our revenue needs are and maybe next year or the following year...entertain the thought of an operating levy."

Police Chief Jeffrey Sucher said that even with the additional funds from the three mill levy passed in May he will be unable to increase the number of officers on the road, including replacing an officer who recently retired.

"We will still have cruisers with an excess of 100,000 miles, we will still have officers going on calls that are increasing by 300 a year, they will be going on three years without a pay raise," Chief Sucher said. "I know officers are looking for jobs elsewhere."

He said during the meeting two of his officers were working on an investigation and the village did not have anyone on patrol.

"The facts are we have a shortfall in the police department," Mayor Leroy Ellington said. "We're under-staffed and the demand for services is increasing. Our residents are not getting the same response time. There are circumstances where response times are suffering."

Ellington said he was not going to steer council towards any particular resolution, but he did encourage them to find a resolution.

"We've dallied over the silliest issues for over a year and we have important things to talk about," Ellington said. "Eliminating council's salary or the mayor's salary, or Morse House or any of that other stuff doesn't have anything to do with getting the job done around here. I'll tell you what's holding us back, the inability to make decisions about important items. It's this council's obligation to do that, and I'm waiting for an important decision to be made. Let's get down to work."

Councilwoman Renee Gerber suggested that council could consider a village-wide income tax.

"To me the earnings tax would be the better way to go because if I live in a $150,000 home we know what it's going to be taxed as, but if I only make $15,000 a year it's not going to be near as much (as the property tax)," Gerber said. "We won't be taxing just the people that live in the village, it's the people that come in here and work at CVS or the school, and it's the renters."

Councilman Chuck Thacker said an earnings tax was exactly what he wanted to avoid as a councilman.

"It was tried before and it was a key issue that caused a lot of friction," Thacker said. "I think (an earnings tax is) a really bad idea. I've never heard an argument that would change that."

Thacker said he does not think a levy will be supported as long as nuisance properties in the village are being mowed and basic maintenance is being performed. He suggested further budget cuts such as closing all of the village parks and he returned to his suggestion of lowering council's pay.

Mayor Ellington pointed out that the parks budget is about $10,000 a year and eliminating it will have a minimal impact on the village's $2.5 million operating budget.

Councilman Bob Pollitt made a motion to discontinue recording council meetings for broadcast on UTTV and county cable access. The vote passed four to two with councilmen Todd Hart and Thacker voted against eliminating the broadcast. Mayor Ellington called the $3,000 per year cost of the broadcast a "spit in the ocean."

Council then voted to request a representative from the Regional Income Tax Agency to make a presentation on the impact of a one percent earnings tax in the village. Gerber, Rosser, and Pollitt voted for the request and councilman Derrick Campbell, Hart, and Thacker voted against. Mayor Ellington broke the tie with a "yeah" vote. He said more information will do nothing but help the village. Council also voted to moved forward with the process of putting a 10 mill police levy on the November ballot.

"We're going to still function if we put this millage out and it doesn't pass," Councilman Todd Hurt said. "We'll just role up our sleeves a little bit further."

Rosser said he is very interested in hearing new ideas for generating revenue for the village of Amelia.

"I don't want to see my taxes go up," Rosser said. "But I took an oath that I was going to come up here to be on council and be responsible for the financial well being of the village. Some hard decisions have to be made and we have got to make them. They may not be the most favorable, but they have to be made. We have to find a revenue stream...We're getting to the point where we don't know where else to go."

Council will make a final decision on the police levy at their Aug. 2 meeting in order to meet the Aug. 4 filing deadline.
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