To tax or not to tax

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By BRIAN BOHNERT
SENIOR STAFF WRITER

State and local officials believe additional taxes are crucial for Fostoria to regain the financial stability it had pre-Great Recession.
On Tuesday, members of Fostoria City Council will have their own chance to say whether a 6-mill property tax levy is necessary when they vote to bring the measure before voters this fall.
Council will hear a first reading Tuesday night of a resolution declaring the necessity of the proposed tax hike and placing the levy on the Nov. 7 ballot.
The State Auditor’s Office placed Fostoria in a state of fiscal emergency on May 26, 2016, requiring city administration to work with the state to craft a five-year plan for recovery.
State mandates require the city to have a three-month carryover balance in the general fund in order to get out of fiscal emergency. According to projections laid out in the recovery plan, Fostoria is expected to meet those conditions with a balance of $1,946,297 by the end of 2021
Council approved the financial recovery plan on March 21 and the document was adopted by a seven-member, state-appointed Financial Planning and Supervision Commission on March 29.
If approved by voters this fall, the levy is expected to generate nearly $3.5 million for the city by 2021. According to the resolution going before council Tuesday, the levy would be earmarked for the city’s safety forces, namely Fostoria Fire Division and EMS services.
The general fund lost roughly $500,000 a year toward the salaries and benefits of eight Fostoria firefighters when the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant expired last year.
For a resident living in a home valued at $50,000, the tax levy would cost about $105 per year — roughly 29 cents per day. A home with a market value of $100,000 would have an additional $210 tagged onto the homeowner’s annual property tax bill.
If the resolution is approved by a majority vote, the ballot measure will go before voters in November. If the levy fails at the polls, four police officers, two firefighters and two police clerks will be laid off by Jan. 1, 2018. Additionally, two officers and three firefighters who left to either retire or seek employment elsewhere would not be replaced.
In other business, council will consider adopting a resolution authorizing Mayor Eric Keckler to apply for the Ohio Public Works Commission State Capital Improvement and/or Local Transportation Improvement Program(s).
The administration is planning capital improvements to the area bounded on the north by Arbor Street, on the south by Hart Avenue, on the west by Douglas Street and on the east by Lincoln Avenue.
Those improvements will include pavement, storm sewer work and sanitary sewers and waterlines.
Council will also consider approving an agreement between the city and the Ohio Water Development Authority concerning various construction projects.
According to the ordinance, the city intends to initiate the following construction projects: water distribution — upgrades and improvements to reservoirs and renovations to the water plant and storm water pump stations.
A third reading will also be sought for an ordinance authorizing the city to advertise for bids and enter into a contract for improvements to Ebersole Boulevard and Arbor Street.
The project will be funded partially through State Issue 1 funds with 25 percent from a grant and 25 percent from a loan. The remaining 50 percent will be funded locally.
An ordinance granting the city permission to advertise for bids and enter into a contract to rehabilitate Taxiway B at the Fostoria Metropolitan Airport will also be up for adoption.
A resolution authorizing the city to file an application with the Ohio Department of Transportation, Office of Aviation, for grant funds at the Fostoria Metropolitan Airport will also be considered for adoption.
Council will hear a second reading of a resolution certifying the tax value of the 6-mill property tax levy the administration plans to place on the ballot this November.
A second reading will also be heard of an ordinance amending the traffic control map and file by creating a four-way stop at the intersection of North Union and West Culbertson streets.
Tuesday night’s agenda will kick off at 5:45 p.m. with a meeting of Fostoria Finance Committee, immediately followed by Fostoria City Council at 6 p.m.
As always, both meetings are open to the public and will take place in council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building.

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