By Sean Rice
Celina voters resoundingly rejected a ballot measure Tuesday that sought to increase the city income tax by 0.5 percent.
At 1,589 votes for the tax, and 2,725 votes against, the unofficial results show 63 percent of voters rejected the question.
City officials on scene at the Mercer County Courthouse said they were disappointed as results trickled in Tuesday and surprised the measure lost by such a large margin.
"They said 'no,' "Angie King, city council member, said of voters. "And it means we are going to have to work with what we got."
Mayor Sharon LaRue said it is "too soon to tell" if Celina will try again to have a tax issue passed. For now, budget preparations are getting underway for next year and projects that were backlogged will be put off for another year, she said. Those projects include street work, purchasing street and parks equipment and storm sewer repairs. Aside from general operational costs, LaRue said the only items that are "absolutely necessary" for the city to function will be funded in the next budget.
Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel said annual budgets for department chiefs have been scaled back in each of the three past years.
"So that's where we're at now, and they all know that," Hazel said of the "bare bones" funding levels for city departments.
Hazel also said, "it's hard to say" if there will be any layoffs or major cutbacks in city operations next year. Also, Celina's future depends on the state legislature and decisions made on local government funding, he said.
As for voter awareness, LaRue said city administration will continue to keep the public informed with monthly newsletters in utility bills. Also, more public television spots with city government information are being considered.
If the levy would have passed, the additional $1.4 million generated for the city's general fund would have addressed an approaching deficit, estimated at $500,000. It also would have provided funds for street repair, the fire department, storm sewers, parks, outstanding debt and a code enforcement department for property maintenance issues.