If Huber Heights voters reject a 0.25% income tax levy renewal in November, it could substantially affect other city-funded amenities, according to Interim City Manager Bryan Chodkowski.
During a city council work session this week, Chodkowski shared a list of potential cuts, most or all of which would likely be reflected in the 2024 budget if voters turn down the tax renewal for a second time.
Council members are set to vote Monday on a resolution to place the levy on this November’s general election ballot. In May, voters rejected the same request, which would renew an existing 10-year earned income tax that has supported the operation of emergency services since its passage in 2014.
Proposed budget cuts include halting all capital improvement and investment within the city’s parks system; shifting to a minimum maintenance schedule in all parks; closing the Kroger Aquatic Center for at least the 2024 season; implementing a hiring freeze for all city positions and diverting all Rose Music Center proceeds from the parks and recreation department to the public safety department.
“Collectively, these measures would yield the same resources to continue to operate our public safety as we know it today,” Chodkowski said during Tuesday’s meeting. “ ... We do have a wonderful park system and some wonderful amenities, but they are amenities, they are benefits, they are not required safety services.”
Although the current levy doesn’t expire until the end of 2024, budget cuts will be implemented even sooner if the renewal does not pass this year.
“(This) allows the city an opportunity to increase reserves in advance of the revenue loss,” Chodkowski said via email Friday. “If the levy fails, we don’t know how long it might take to replace that revenue source, which makes money management in the present that much more important for future operational flexibility.”
Chodkowski also said the city would again use the services of The Impact Group, a communications firm, to handle the dissemination of levy information to the public.
Council initially voted to hire the Cleveland-area firm in August 2022 for a total of $74,000 to help inform residents about two upcoming tax levy renewals ― the 0.25% tax currently in question, and another set to expire in 2025.
Multiple members of council expressed concern Tuesday that the services of The Impact Group may not be effective given the outcome of the May election.
“I believe the fact information can be provided (to residents) at staff-level,” said Councilman Richard Shaw, adding that he will vote no on the resolution to place the renewal on the ballot if The Impact Group is again involved in the process.
Councilwoman Kate Baker shared a similar sentiment.
“I never saw signage they did, I never got a mailing, or a call or text,” Baker said about the group’s efforts. “I came to one informational meeting and they were not impactful.”
Chodkowski stated the firm would implement a different approach this time around.
“There was a different strategy applied to the primary than what’s being applied to the general election in November,” said Chodkowski, who also noted there would not be enough time to recruit another communications firm prior to the November election.
Councilwoman Nancy Byrge highlighted that the city had used The Impact Group’s services 10 years ago when the tax levy in question was initially approved by voters.