By Tim Cox
Celina city officials appear poised to resume past discussions on seeking an increase in the city's 1 percent income tax.
City council members at Monday's meeting brought up the issue after Councilman Collin Bryan noted that complaints about the condition of streets and alleys in town are among the most common posed by residents.
Bryan for years has supported a tax increase to tackle the ever-growing problem of aging streets throughout town. City officials have found some success in securing state grants to help pay for major street work, but grants typically are not available for projects on secondary streets.
"We'll talk about this until we're blue in the face and most of us are deceased," Bryan said. "Grants are nice but you can't live on them."
City officials should begin preliminary talks now on whether to seek an income tax increase that would be earmarked for street repair and reconstruction, Bryan said. Council's streets and alleys committee will meet Jan. 16 to begin those talks. City administration officials said they would welcome any recommendations committee members make.
Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel said it would take $1 million or so annually to tackle the task of updating streets that have fallen into disrepair.
"They're crumbling underneath our cars," council President Bill Sell said of the aging streets, noting that the condition of city roadways is a common concern echoed by residents through the past few years.
Celina now has a 1 percent income tax while most area communities of similar size have at least a 1.5 percent income tax.
Celina voters in November 2004 soundly rejected a 0.5 percent income tax increase that would have partially gone toward street projects. But a number of other uses for the money also were part of the proposal and council members today admit the issue was unclear and not properly presented to the public.
"We weren't focused on what the plan was," Bryan said of the failed bid for a tax increase.
City council's personnel and finance committee last year had asked administration officials to formulate a new tax increase proposal with a clearer focus, but administration officials opted against seeking the increase for the November election.
"We just don't want to put any more burden on the taxpayers right now," Mayor Sharon LaRue said at that time.