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The Suburbanite
  • North Canton pinning hopes on two levies

  • North Canton officials are asking for help from voters as the city keeps fighting to maintain services and balance the budget. The May 4 ballot has a 1-mill street levy and a 1.5-mill levy to help with costs for emergency medical services.

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  • During the past 10 years, the city’s income tax collections have dropped as jobs disappeared from the Hoover facilities across the street from City Hall.
    As revenue plunged, city officials scrambled to find ways to reduce spending. Budget cuts in recent years have been preceded by warnings of looming deficits. Each year, the deficit has been avoided because of reductions.
    Right now, the city is looking at a deficit that could top $1 million in 2011.
    City officials are asking residents to help.
    A similar request didn’t go well last November. The city sought levies to pay for street repairs and to maintain sewer lines. Voters approved the sewer levy. But the city — by asking for 2 mills — wanted residents to double the amount they paid for street repairs. That issue was narrowly defeated.
    On Tuesday, city residents again will be presented with a street levy request. They also are being asked to help cover the cost of emergency medical services — ambulances — provided by the Fire Department.
    This time, the street levy is a 1-mill renewal, similar to the one city voters have renewed for several years. Officials hope residents are willing to continue paying the older rate.
    The ambulance levy is new. City Council opted to seek 1.5 mills for only two years. Adding the new levy to a smaller permanent levy and the fees collected for ambulance calls should help cover nearly the entire annual cost of emergency medical services.
    “It’s not a bad deal,” Council President Daryl Revoldt said as he argued in favor of the ambulance levy. “We’re trying to preserve what the residents say they relish and need.”
    The bulk of the money used to pay for fire and ambulance services comes from the city general fund, which is shrinking because of dwindling income tax collections.
    Passing the ambulance levy will allow the city to use general fund revenue on other projects in 2011 and 2012. That should be long enough to avoid projected deficits.
    After two years, city officials will decide if the ambulance levy still is needed. They can drop the levy, or see if residents are willing to continue the tax.
    During that stretch, it is hoped the economy will improve and that new tenants will bring employees to the open office and factory space in the Hoover District. So far, a half-dozen tenants have more than 500 people working in the complex.
    That means more people are paying the city’s income tax.
    The job totals pale compared to the Hoover employment levels but it’s a start.
    “It’s going to help some,” Revoldt said. But it’s not enough to cover all of the city’s expenses.
    Officials fear failure of the ambulance tax could force the city to eliminate jobs though layoffs.
    Page 2 of 2 - Failure of the street tax will mean a delay in repairs on neighborhood streets.