ELYRIA — It’s a campaign Elyria has been waging every five years for the past three decades, but city officials will say it never gets easier to explain why residents need to vote to continue an income tax that nets no additional money for city coffers.
Mayor Holly Brinda, whose history includes championing for school issues when she was on the Elyria school board, knows passing a renewal levy — even though it will cost taxpayers no additional money — will not be easy. It takes
just as much legwork and campaigning as an issue asking for more money.
Moreover, voters have to be convinced that what they have been doing for years has already been worth their money. Knowing that, Brinda said it was a little disconcerting when Cleveland-based consultant firm Burges & Burges conducted an in-depth survey of 30 Elyria residents and learned many had no idea the city has slashed its budget by millions.
“I think it just means we will have to do a better job at showing residents that we are doing our part to do the most we can with their limited and precious tax dollars,” she said. “Passing this issue is vital to the city. It accounts for 20 percent of our overall general budget that pays for things like police, fire and road maintenance. Now, we need residents to do their part to secure Elyria’s future.”
By touting the numerous costsaving reductions the city has made this year, Brinda hopes residents will pass Issue 5.
The city has cut the number of take home cars, has not filled 11½ jobs and reviewed every contract between the city and an outside vendor. In addition, employees in several bargaining groups have taken pay freezes for the year and volunteered to increase contributions to the city’s health insurance program.
“We have already done $1.7 million in cuts. Any additional cuts of that kind of magnitude would have catastrophic consequences on the city,” Brinda said.
If the levy fails, she said the city will have to cut 25 percent of the workforce or roughly 125 employees.
Finance Director Ted Pileski said layoffs and cost reductions if Issue 5 fails should not be seen as threats.
The city’s temporary tax expires in June 2014. If it does not pass, he said he will have no choice but to cut the estimated revenue of 2014 by $3 million. By law, he can’t include money in the budget that is not there, even though it has been a part of the city’s financial picture for 30 years.
“We did that when the state repealed the estate tax and when Invacare did a layoff and it cut into our income tax collections,” Pileski said. “We have taken some losses, and the general fund reflects that. We can’t take the loss of the temporary income tax.”