ELYRIA — A list of roads, building projects and some big-ticket items Elyria put off in leaner years will see funding in 2017 with an extra $6 million in tax revenue from the city’s new 0.5 percent income tax increase.
The 2017 Issue 6 proposed budget tackles issues city officials said were delayed for lack of funding for many years, but voters approved an increase in 2016 based on the promise more residential streets would be repaved, more police officers would be hired and the city’s parks would be infused with new amenities.
Finance Director Ted Pileski said City Council will discuss the Issue 6 proposed budget as well as the 2017 permanent budget March 13 with passage possible by March 20.
Revenue from Issue 6, Pileski said, is kept separate from the general fund. Collections in 2016 amounted to $2.08 million, and the city spent $1.1 million of that. The fund started the year with a cash balance of $960,397.
The largest portion of this year’s Issue 6 proceeds — $1.5 million — will go toward roads.
City Engineer Tim Ujvari said the plan is to stretch the $1.5 million as far as it will go. The city will start with 13 streets and a pavement preservation program.
“We will do this in two phases. We have already identified 13 streets. When the bids go out, we will see what is left over and do a second phase,” he said.
Not listed on the Issue 6 roadway improvement list are pothole-pocked Third Street and East Avenue. However, the long-awaited projects will see a start date in 2017, Ujvari said.
Funds from either the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency or Ohio Public Works Commission will pay for those, city officials said.
Two new spray parks, one each at South Park and West Park, are coming for 2017.
Director Lisa Bowman said the pool at West Park is no more after it was demolished. The Engineering Office should approve design plans for the spray park in early March, and the project will go out for bid. South Park will get underway once the city receives its Community Development Block Grant Fund disbursement from the federal government as the grant will pay for $150,000 of the total $400,000 projects.
Lastly, this year Bowman said North Park will get some much-needed upgrades. It’s a toss up right now between a new front entryway and a new compressor. In addition, two high school locker rooms will be built at the ice arena, which is used by Avon, Midview, Amherst and Elyria Catholic high schools as well as Oberlin College. A Cleveland team of the Hockey North America league also uses Elyria’s ice, Bowman said.
The Police and Parks and Recreation departments will each see a $1 million infusion. The Police Department has additional revenue from 2016 that it will carry over.
Pileski said the proposed budget does not appropriate the full amount the city will receive from Issue 6 this year because of two things.
First, there is $200,000 earmarked for a fiber optic network. However, the city may scrap that plan. The Issue 6 literature also included $800,000 for “operating needs,” but the literature did not specify those needs, and it was not address in the ballot language, Pileski said.
Mayor Holly Brinda said there is no effort underway to move Issue 6 money into the general fund. Instead, she said she will make recommendations where Issue 6 can fund expenditures in the general fund.
“We want to hold as true as possible to what voters said they wanted and what we said we were going to do,” she said. “We can only do this in very limited areas because Issue 6 is very specific, but it’s worth a discussion if it can be used for more police officers or more road projects. That has to be part of our budget discussions.”
Brinda said that while the city needed Issue 6 and she appreciates voters’ trust in passing it, it does not address any of the problems of the city’s general fund, where expenses outpace revenue.
“That is a dilemma we have that really needs to be addressed,” she said.