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Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Council to try levy again in May

St. Henry

By Shelley Grieshop
ST. HENRY - Village councilors again will ask voters to approve an income tax increase to fund a new swimming pool and other projects but are making changes to their proposal based on public feedback.
Councilors on Monday night unanimously decided to put the 1/2 percent income tax increase back on the ballot May 7 after it was defeated in November.  This time the proposed levy would be limited to 15 years - the time needed to complete several necessary projects, village administrator Ron Gelhaus said. Councilors previously asked voters for a permanent levy.
The other major change will give 100 percent credit for the life of the 1/2 percent increase to St. Henry residents who work outside the village. The failed levy would have given tax forgiveness to out-of-town workers only after the first five years, councilors had said.
If the levy moves forward, it would raise the town's income tax rate to 1 1/2 percent.
The previous levy would have generated about $480,000 annually the first five years then would have dropped to $356,000 each year due to the tax forgiveness.
Gelhaus stressed the projects previously proposed such as construction of a new $1.5-$1.9 million swimming pool and storm water management upgrades will remain the same for the proposed levy.
"Those projects are too important not to go back (to the polls) again," Gelhaus said.
Councilors received a lot of feedback from the public after voters defeated the levy in November by nearly 55 percent, he said.
"We realized we needed to do something to change people's minds," Gelhaus said.
He said trying to pass a permanent income tax levy with no specific expiration was a "detriment" to the campaign.
Councilors plan to hold first reading on the proposed May tax levy at their next meeting Jan. 14. A special meeting is likely to be set for Jan. 21 to hear second reading and a third and final reading planned for Jan. 28. Council must file its intent with the county board of elections by Feb. 6 to get the levy on the spring ballot.
Gelhaus said other ideas to increase revenue were discussed Monday such as raising water and sewage rates or rolling back the current 1 percent income tax forgiveness for residents working outside the village. However, councilors didn't like the idea of putting "100 percent of the burden on residents of the village," he said.
In other business Monday, councilors finalized an ordinance giving 2 1/2 percent across-the-board raises to town employees effective in January. The measure increases the village administrator's salary to $57,660 (up $1,560), chief of police to $51,314 (up $1,040), public works superintendent to $46,411 (up $1,040) and public utilities superintendent to $45,123 (up $1,040).
Mayor Jeff Mescher's salary will remain at $4,250 per year. Also unchanged are council members wages at $80 per meeting.
Council also approved on third and final reading the reappointment of Rick Delzeith as the village solicitor for 2013. His salary increases from $600 to $650 per month with no benefits except those provided through the Public Employees' Retirement System.
In other action, councilors approved after three readings a resolution to authorize temporary appropriations of $818,875 for expenses the first quarter of 2013. The resolution is necessary until approval is granted for the permanent 2013 budget.
An executive session was held to discuss land acquisition but no action was taken.
Additional online story on this date
CELINA - School board members have decided an income tax levy for operating costs will take precedence over building a new elementary school.
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