MOUNT VERNON — City Auditor Terry Scott reported on where revenues from a one-half percent additional income tax levy are going in a press release Tuesday.
“The voters decided the additional one-half percent income tax increase was going to fund police, fire and EMS services, and that is precisely where the money is going,” Scott, writing in the press release, said.
To understand part of the history of the income tax levies in Mount Vernon, the city initiated an unvoted three-fourths percent income tax in 1966, a measure taken by the council. The state statute allows municipalities to institute up to one percent without taking the measure to voters. In the early 1970s, the council approved the additional quarter percent, reaching the full one percent for the municipality. In 1982, Mount Vernon voted to pass a one-half percent income tax levy specifically for the police, fire and EMS. Now, the safety services are receiving both one-half percent tax levies that assure their funding each from 1982 and 2017. This restricted income will continue unless voters decide otherwise.
The measure is starting to pay off. Scott noted that revenues from the 2017 income tax levy were estimated as Siemens was leaving town and taking jobs with it. The city anticipated lost revenue at close to $1 million.
Income taxes were expected to generate about $3,550,000 but actually $4,004,985 was collected. In 2019, the city estimated about $3,575,000 and collected $4,239,435.
Scott and Mayor Matt Starr, in the press release, attribute the larger-than-expected revenues due to a strong economy.
“When you see revenues like that, it can only mean one of two things; first more people are working, and/or those working are getting paid more,” Starr writes.
More specifically, over the past two years, Scott explained that in 2018 withholdings totaled $11,675,758 compared to $12,183,379 in 2019.
This money comes from the workforce that is employed in Mount Vernon. It does not include corporations, small businesses and LLCs, and resident taxpayers who live in Mount Vernon but work in another community. In any regard, the economy is helping the city tackle much-needed projects while securing a funding stream for safety services.
So, what happens to the other money out of the general fund that was supplementing the safety services before the 2017 income tax levy? As it turns out, the investment into the intended allocation has not only surpassed the expectations of funding the Mount Vernon Police and Fire/EMS departments, but the restructuring of the other monies originally supplementing police and fire/EMS, have resulted in a sizable increase in investment back into the citizens neighborhoods through projects that had been on hold for years.
In addition, the restructuring has helped purchase much-needed equipment for Mount Vernon’s service delivery effectiveness. This was due in large part to the last city council restricting certain funds for projects concerning capital improvements and roads and bridges — two specific funds now on the city books.
Over the past two years, the Capital Projects list included the completion of the Pleasant Street brick project, replacement of the City Hall steps and assisting ODOT in paving of U.S. 36 in 2019. Last year saw more capital projects that included a partial upgrade to the elevator in the Plaza building at 5 North Gay, the additional building construction for new pool heaters at Hiawatha Water Park, initiating the Newark Road sidewalk project, a digital speed monitor was purchased to help monitor and control motorists in high traffic areas, computer upgrades, trucks, mowers, and a tractor were purchased for the service departments, as well as a front-end loader, which has helped the street crew provide better service.
The Roads and Bridges fund began work on the Parrott Street on South Main Street intersection, completed the Parrot Street/South Main Street intersection; initiated Phase I of the Yellow Jacket Drive project, which includes new water lines for the school complex, made improvements to Plum Alley, initiated the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge project, completed the Beech Street sidewalk project and conducted a city-wide resurfacing project.
“What this translates is about 40% of the unvoted 1% income tax which is allocated for citizen-based projects. The addition of the stormwater utility will also help us continue to speed up the process of replacing and/or implementing changes to the drainage infrastructure under the surface of the ground,” said Starr.
Some of the Capital Project Improvements slated for 2020 include finishing an upgrade to the Plaza Building, making improvements to the cemetery building, assisting with ODOT’s work on the bike path underpass at the viaduct on South Main Street, wrapping up the Newark Road sidewalk project (which will extend to Snyder Funeral Home, constructing Shellmar Park in the West end, and replacing a dump truck and a zero-turn mower.
For Roads and Bridges, the city has plans to improve the North Main Street-Chestnut Street intersection; begin work on the Sandusky Street Safety Project-Tilden Avenue and Belmont Street intersections; participate with ODOT’s resurfacing of Ohio 229 East; complete $550,000 of citywide paving; completing Phase II of the Yellow Jacket Drive project including curbs, gutters and asphalt; begin work on the Belmont Street and Mulberry Street sidewalks and stormwater; complete downtown traffic signal upgrades to Ohio Avenue and Vine Street intersections with South Main Street; complete brick street work for two blocks on Oak Street and three blocks on Catherine Street; and wrap up construction on the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge.