The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 26, 2012

Geneva council looks at tax increase

Star Beacon

GENEVA — After canceling the regular Monday meeting, Geneva City Council will reconvene on Jan. 14 to consider a half percent income tax increase, Councilman Howard Anderson said.

“As a councilman, it is difficult to ask the residents for more money,” he said.

The increase “can’t be helped,” Anderson said, as federal and state funds for local governments have dwindled to almost nothing in recent years.

“This is only going to replace what we have lost in state, federal and county funding,” he said. “It won’t fully replace the $500,000 per year loss in funding we see now.”

Anderson said the state’s local government fund, which used to provide millions to small villages, cities and townships, has “decreased steadily.”

“Over the last three years, it has just become less and less funding for the cities,” he said, “to the point that there is almost no funding from the state at all.”

City Manager Jim Pearson agrees the budget shortfall is a failure of state funding.

“Every year we lose $400,00 out of budget due to failures in the state’s local government fund,” he said. “Typically, that fund would be our money for capital projects and I don’t think that money is coming back and I think we will struggle. Each month the city sees the results of the state cuts more and more.”

Part of the problem, Anderson said, is that the city needs matching funds to qualify for state and federal grant money.

“We are very fortunate to have a talented grant writer in (Assistant City Manager) Jennifer Brown,” Anderson said, “but you have to have those matching dollars to qualify. Jennifer can take $100,000 and turn it into $1 million with grants, but right now the city simply doesn’t have the matching funds to qualify for those grants.”

Pearson said the city finance committee has been meeting on revenue since August.

“We know our capital needs are high and the funding is not there for the streets as we need them and we know we need to do something,” he said.