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09-28-04 Celina councilors OK 6 tax districts

By Sean Rice
srice@dailystandard.com

  Celina City Council approved six new tax increment financing (TIF) districts Monday, which could potentially provide millions of dollars for city improvements during the next 25 years.

  A batch of 11 ordinances was passed to create each district and a fund in the city budget for each.
  By creating the taxing districts in strategic locations in Celina, officials hope to capture property tax revenue from properties that experience an increase in value.
  Individual property owners in a TIF district will not see taxes increase because of the arrangement, but they usually increase over time due to improvements.
  When properties are placed in a TIF district, the values of each property are recorded. As property values increase due to inflation and surrounding improvements, property tax bills also will increase. The corresponding increased tax payments are set aside in a special TIF fund for that area for improvements.  City council approved a TIF district last year to capture the property value increase at the Westlake Village development on West Bank Road. The TIF funds generated there could pay for the boardwalk project under discussion. On Monday, council expanded that district into a new district that includes downtown Celina.
  The other five TIF districts created include the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter property on Havemann Road; the new industrial park on Staeger Road; the former Mersman furniture company property; property on state Route 29 west; and on state Route 703 east.
  Celina community development consultant Kent Bryan said the complex funding source could be used to fund several development projects, pay off debt for completed projects or provide matching funds for grant submissions. The goals are to bring more jobs, more industry and solidify the tax base, he said.
  Council members also approved Monday the complex funding mechanism contained in the Mercer County Solid Waste plan.
  A 1987 law requires every Ohio county to create, or join, a solid waste district with a comprehensive plan that spells out how trash is handled and sets up funding for recycling services.
  Currently, the $240,000 annual budget of the solid waste district is collected by per-ton "tipping" fees paid by haulers at the landfill. It pays for waste education programs and advertising and subsidizes the recycling center in Chickasaw.
  Under the solid waste management plan OK'd by Celina, county property owners would end up paying a few dollars a year for recycling services if the Celina Sanitary Landfill reaches capacity and closes. Or, each village can decide to pay the solid waste fees through bag charges or another method. Until the landfill closes, the tipping fee program will continue.
  Each village and township in the county is considering approving the plan. Celina has the ability to veto the plan and did so in 2000.
  Residents could see the elimination of spikes in natural gas prices this winter, if city officials work out a deal for gas rates on behalf of residents.
  City voters last year approved a natural gas aggregation measure on the ballot, which gave city leaders the ability to pool all city natural gas customers into one bargaining group.
  Celina administrative director Jeff Hazel said he is close to striking a deal with a company that would lock in a gas rate for residents.
  When a deal on natural gas is signed, residents will have the option to opt-out of the program at no cost or detriment. Residents who don't choose to be excluded from the city's gas deal will be automatically included in the bargaining pool.
  Hazel said all residents will receive a letter when a deal is reached, along with a notice from the new supplier. At that point, any resident who doesn't want the deal has a time frame to respond and decline.
  Dominion East Ohio will remain Celina's gas distributor and provide billing, regardless of any new deal for gas supply.
  In other matters of business, council members:
   Tabled an ordinance that would create a system of contractor registration in Celina.
   Passed the first reading of an ordinance creating a new sewer district to serve The Reserve subdivision north of state Route 197 (Wayne Street), and 100-plus surrounding acres.
   Passed an emergency resolution applying for Ohio Public Works Commission Issue II funds to use as matching dollars for a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation to repave Ash Street in 2005.

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