Dayton will use levy funds for housing; but will that be enough for entire commission?

Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr. and some city officials say the city can put $650,000 of its income tax levy revenue toward housing without taking funding away from other important community commitments.

But Commissioners Shenise Turner-Sloss and Darryl Fairchild have said they’d like to see the city spend twice as much levy money on housing. They say they believe the city can accomplish this without reducing funding to other investments.

“Housing is a priority and $650,000 is just not going to do it considering the crisis ... we’re in,” said Commissioner Turner-Sloss.

City commission members say they hope a compromise can be reached.

Mayor Mims said he supports putting $450,000 of the city’s annual federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding toward housing.

Dayton City Commission last week had the first reading of legislation that would put an income tax renewal on the March 19 ballot. A second reading is expected to take place on Wednesday.

The ballot measure would ask Dayton voters to reauthorize an income tax hike they approved in 2016.

The 0.25% tax, which expires at the end of 2024, generates roughly $11 million to $15 million annually, city data show.

The tax levy originally was called Issue 9.

All five members of the Dayton City Commission agree that some levy money should go toward housing.

But there’s been debate about how much.

Mayor Mims said city administrative and budget staff believe the city can dedicate $650,000 annually from the renewal levy without “defunding” other neighborhood investments, according to an email the mayor sent to a commissioner last month.

Revenue from the 0.25% income tax levy currently pays for Preschool Promise universal kindergarten, public safety investments, road repaving, vacant lot maintenance and park improvements.

According to the mayor’s office, the current proposal calls for using annual levy revenue for Preschool Promise ($4.3 million); residential road resurfacing ($5.9 million); public safety ($3.7 million); housing ($650,000); vacant lot mowing ($644,000); park upgrades and improvements ($244,000).

Combined, this would cost about $15.4 million.

However, the mayor and City Manager Shelley Dickstein have said the city commission could pass a resolution that commits $450,000 of the city’s federal discretionary CDBG funds to housing.

Mims said this means the city would increase spending on housing by $1.1 million annually, without needing to “defund” any of the existing levy commitments.

Dickstein also said the city already spends about $4.1 million on housing investments each year.

Commissioners Fairchild and Turner-Sloss recently praised city staff and their colleagues on the commission for working to add housing to the levy funding commitments.

But Turner-Sloss said doubling the proposed spending on housing — to $1.3 million — would show the city prioritizes its neighborhoods.

“I really do appreciate my colleagues: I hope within the next week or two that we’re able to come to some sort of type of agreement or compromise,” Turner-Sloss said at last week’s commission meeting. “I hope that we can roll up our sleeves, do the work, without affecting any of the noted programs that we have outlined in Issue 9.”

Commissioner Fairchild last week said he thinks the commission is getting close to figuring out a funding commitment that would satisfy the entire commission.

“I hope that we can move just a little bit closer, because I think the $650,000 isn’t quite enough to demonstrate to the community that housing is a priority,” he said. “But I think we’re close and I think there’s some options.”

Some community members, including members of the Dayton Tenant Union, have been pushing city leaders to commit to spending at least $2 million of its annual levy funds on housing.

Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw last week said $650,000 annually is not nearly enough money to address some of the city’s housing challenges and needs — but even tripling that amount wouldn’t take care of these issues either.

Shaw said the city’s best hope is to leverage its limited funding with investments from its community partners and housing partners.

Shaw also said the commission needs to be united to get voters to approve the levy renewal in March.

Mayor Mims said he wishes the city could devote more of levy funds to housing but that’s not feasible, especially because of inflation and rising costs.

City officials have said that road repaving costs have increased 60% in the last seven years, and public safety forces equipment has become more pricey.

Dayton already spends significant sums on housing, including for emergency shelter and assistance and housing rehab activities, the mayor said.

Mims said the city is using $15.8 million of its $138 million in federal COVID relief money for blight demolition and $18.7 million for new housing units, housing improvements and residential rehab and repair programs.

About the Author