April 24, 2014

Elyria
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Tax increase will fix Lorain roads, save jobs

LORAIN — Roads will be smoother and the parks will cleaner with Tuesday’s passage of Issue 13, a 0.5 percent income tax increase.

The permanent increase will raise $5.3 million annually, with much of it going to pay for road improvements and to hire workers to maintain the parks. About $2 million will fill a projected deficit that would’ve caused approximately 25 employees to be laid off. Another $1.6 million will pay borrowing costs on a $20 million, 20-year bond for road improvements in the next two or three years. Another $1 million will go for annual road improvements and maintenance.

The tax passed 11,580 to 10,880, or 52 percent to 48 percent, according to unofficial results from the Lorain County Board of Elections.

Mayor Chase Ritenauer, who took office in January had framed the increase as a quality of life issue.

“Until we invest in ourselves, we’re not going to see that potential come to life,” Ritenauer said last month. “We have a choice in terms of what type of city we want to live in.”

Hit hard by deindustrialization, which shrunk its population and tax base even before the Great Recession, Lorain was forced to cut its workforce from about 600 to 450 over the last decade. The increase — which boosts the city tax to 2.5 percent — will allow the city to hire workers to maintain the city’s 56 parks. The Parks Department was eliminated a few years ago as part of budget cuts in Lorain, which is designated to be in fiscal watch by the state.

Lorain’s roads need $35 million in improvements, according to the city’s Engineering Department. Ritenauer said improving the Lorain’s infrastructure and parks along with reducing blight is key to recruiting businesses to Lorain and expanding existing ones.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.