Herald Staff Writer
The failure of the Barberton’s requested property tax levy to help shore up the general fund after B&W’s pull-out has the city groping for alternatives.
Mayor William Judge gave a two-part presentation at the Nov. 24 city council committee work session where he floated some ideas. In part one, which he described as “neighborhood development, he defended a pair of legislation requests that would increase certain fees.
The first would increase the city’s rental registration fees. Currently, landlords pay $40 per rental unit per year. After three years with no violations, this is cut in half. In the proposal, the “good landlord” provision is eliminated. Registration would be hiked to $100 per unit per year. An update would be $25 and late registration would have a $50 surcharge. Adding additional units between registration periods would be $45 apiece.
“The landlords who are already at $20 would be grandfathered,” Judge said. “They would stay at the $20. Why penalize landlords who have been good stewards?”
A violation or a change of ownership would erase that grandfather, after which the $20 rate would be gone forever.
Barberton would not be unique in this, Judge said.
“This is not outside the realm of other communities,” the mayor said. “This is somewhere in the middle.”
Judge said that when council passes the legislation, the city would hire an extra clerk and property maintenance inspector.
“We just don’t have the manpower to do proper inspections,” Judge said.
With the extra inspector, the city can enforce health, safety and beautification outside and sanitation, heat, light, ventilation, health and safety inside.
Judge added that technicians and inspectors would be assigned specific zones they will be responsible for.
“This allows for concentrated effort, accountability, community impact and involvement,” Judge said.
He said this will allow the inspectors to learn their area and its residents. The inspectors will have their own reliable city vehicles, as well. Inspectors up to this have used either beat-up former police cruisers or their own vehicles.
The mayor would also like to expand the rebate program. Currently, both homeowners and landlords can get a rebate of $10 per can on paint.
“But how many people paint their homes today?” Judge asked.
Recognizing that a lot of homes have vinyl or aluminum siding, he suggested that, perhaps rebates could be offered on gutter or roof repair. He also wants a good sidewalk replacement program.
Another ordinance the mayor floated will increase the penalty for cutting grass on private property. The increase, including depreciation on equipment as well as the workers’ time, would put a mowing around $800 to $825.
I know that sounds high,” planning director Greg Tracy said. “That’s because it is, and that’s on purpose. We do not want to be cutting other peoples’ grass. It’s their responsibility.”
“We want to de-incentivize it,” Judge said.
Tracy told council the city had handled 391 “weed and grass violations” this past season. Councilman Thomas “Bebe” Heitic pointed out that at an hour per lot, that amounted to 391 hours city personnel weren’t out doing actual city work.
Council called for both pieces of legislation to be read in regular session. The city expects these to go the full three readings.
More controversial and with no accompanying legislation that night were the mayor’s suggestions in part two.
First was a rollback of the credit the city grants to residents paying income tax in other jurisdictions. He pointed out that by state law, the credits are not required and that, technically, workers who work in other cities owe tax to both. He said a 50% credit rollback on a $50,000 salary would bring Barberton $562.50. Other communities that have rolled back at least part of their income tax credits, he said, include Norton and Wadsworth.
Judge also suggested charging a monthly property tax assessment for snow, ice and leaf removal and control. Such a charge of $7 per month, times 10,000 properties, would bring the city $840,000 per year, for example.
Judge acknowledged the obvious: This tacks on additional money to residents’ property tax and the residents only three weeks earlier had defeated an additional property tax at the ballot box.
“This is earmarked,” Judge said. “The feedback I got from some people was that they didn’t like it because it went into the general fund and could be spent on anything. Some also said it was too much and this is a lot less.”
Judge said he has no pending legislation for these two suggestions but is only looking for feedback.