ELYRIA — The crack of the bat, eyes titled upward as a ball sails over a fence and the smell of hot dogs float through the air.
There was no denying there was a picnic happening Saturday at Elyria Little League East, but the party for city employees, family members and residents had a deeper purpose. It was the kickoff for the city’s campaign for the upcoming 0.5 percent income tax renewal.
Organizers wanted to remind residents that coming together for fun, food and sports is one thing, but the city also needs the community to rally around a ballot issue that is worth more than $6 million.
“Twenty percent of the city’s general fund budget is at stake with this issue,” said Mayor Holly Brinda. “It supports vital city services — police and fire, allows us to operate the Parks and Recreation Department, pick up leaves and fill potholes — all the things people expect us to do every year.”
Elyria officials are no strangers to this fight to pass an income tax renewal.
Originally passed by voters 30 years ago, the issue goes before electors every five years. There is no increase in the funding the city receives each time it goes on the ballot, but without passage every five years, the city can not legally continue to collect the $6 million the income tax generates.
City Finance Director Ted Pileski said there have been attempts over the years to ask voters to make the income tax permanent.
“But obviously it has failed every single time, so we keep doing this, knowing the consequences we face without passing it,” he said.
Without passage in November, Pileski said he will have to cut the budget by $3 million next year. The income tax expires June 30. The money will stop flowing starting July 1 if voters reject this renewal.
City Council has placed an additional issue on the ballot that, if passed, will allow issues like the income tax renewal to go on primary and general election ballots. But Brinda said the companion issue is not being pushed as hard as Issue 5. She wants voters to focus on the immediate needs of the city.
“Worst-case scenario, we are talking 100 to 125 jobs being lost without this issue, and we only have about 460 employees in all,” Brinda said.
On Saturday, those employees kicked back a little bit.
The capstone of the event was a friendly softball game between the Elyria Fire Department and Elyria Police Department. It was the kind of competitive event the Elyrians First Committee hopes can become a city tradition.
And the winners of this game, which showcased some pretty powerful hitters, were the Police Department. They scored 30 runs to the Fire Department’s 20.