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Published: Monday, 5/4/2009

B.G. cell-phone restrictions among issues on local ballots

BLADE STAFF

BOWLING GREEN - A proposed ordinance on the ballot here tomorrow would prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving in the city.

The cell-phone ban, which would exempt hands-free devices, is one of many issues before voters in northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan. Polls will be open tomorrow in Ohio from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. and in Michigan from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"I think cell phone usage while driving is the most dangerous driver distraction other than drunk driving," said Bob McOmber, a member of Bowling Green City Council who proposed the measure, which council later put on the ballot.

The Bowling Green law would prohibit mobile telephone use on the road - that means no dialing, answering, talking, listening, texting, or using a keypad. The ban excludes police, fire, and rescue personnel and civilians in emergencies. Using a hand-held phone would be allowed while the vehicle is parked.

Violating the law, a minor misdemeanor, would be a primary traffic offense: Police would be able to pull over drivers for that offense alone.

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The following issues are among those appearing on Tuesday s ballot in area communities.
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  Bowling Green: A law to prohibit hand-held mobile telephone use by motorists in the city. It wouldn t apply to hands-free devices.
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  Bowling Green City Schools: Replacement of the district s 0.5 percent income tax with a five-year, 1 percent income tax.
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  Bedford Public Schools: A five-year, 0.5-mill  sinking fund  levy for maintenance and repairs.
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  Maumee City Schools: A 3.9-mill continuing operating levy.
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  Northwood Local Schools: A continuing 1.75-mill levy permanent improvement levy renewal at a lower rate than the 2.5-mill levy it would replace.
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  Springfield Local Schools: 1.35-mill, five-year permanent improvement levy renewal. 
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  Swanton: 1.5-mill replacement tax for five years to operate the fire department and a replacement levy of 0.5 mill for five years for permanent park improvements.
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  North Baltimore Local Schools: A 7.57-mill bond issue and 0.25 percent income tax to pay for renovations and new construction.
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  Otsego Local Schools: A 5-mill, five-year emergency operating levy.
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  Pike-Delta-York Local Schools: A new 0.75 percent income tax.
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  Fulton County: A 1.1-mill,5-year renewal for seniors  services and facilities.
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  Napoleon: A 1.3-percent income tax for operations, property acquisition, capital improvements, and economic development.
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  Hancock County: A 2.5-mill, 5-year renewal of an operating levy for the county Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. <br> The following issues are among those appearing on Tuesday s ballot in area communities. <br> Bowling Green: A law to prohibit hand-held mobile telephone use by motorists in the city. It wouldn t apply to hands-free devices. <br> Bowling Green City Schools: Replacement of the district s 0.5 percent income tax with a five-year, 1 percent income tax. <br> Bedford Public Schools: A five-year, 0.5-mill sinking fund levy for maintenance and repairs. <br> Maumee City Schools: A 3.9-mill continuing operating levy. <br> Northwood Local Schools: A continuing 1.75-mill levy permanent improvement levy renewal at a lower rate than the 2.5-mill levy it would replace. <br> Springfield Local Schools: 1.35-mill, five-year permanent improvement levy renewal. <br> Swanton: 1.5-mill replacement tax for five years to operate the fire department and a replacement levy of 0.5 mill for five years for permanent park improvements. <br> North Baltimore Local Schools: A 7.57-mill bond issue and 0.25 percent income tax to pay for renovations and new construction. <br> Otsego Local Schools: A 5-mill, five-year emergency operating levy. <br> Pike-Delta-York Local Schools: A new 0.75 percent income tax. <br> Fulton County: A 1.1-mill,5-year renewal for seniors services and facilities. <br> Napoleon: A 1.3-percent income tax for operations, property acquisition, capital improvements, and economic development. <br> Hancock County: A 2.5-mill, 5-year renewal of an operating levy for the county Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
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Mayor John Quinn has restated the administration's concerns: Without a statewide ban, the law would make Bowling Green an island and, with visitors coming, would create an enforcement problem - and could make the community seem unfriendly.

"We're not opposed to the concept. A state law would probably be good," Mr. Quinn said.

Mr. McOmber said police always have discretion not to give a ticket. As for visitors, "I'd hope they'd be more likely to get a warning than a citation."

In Monroe County's Bedford Township, voters will decide whether to strike down township officials' decision of last year to rezone land owned by Jon Whitman near Lewis Avenue and Sterns Road.

The referendum stems from action by the township board to rezone 34 acres. Bedfordwatch.com, a citizens group formed years ago to oppose a proposed Wal-Mart store on the site, gathered petition signatures to get the referendum before voters.

Voting yes will mean the new zoning will remain in effect. A no vote will mean the land will revert to its original zoning classifications.

School issues dominate the ballot in many places.

Bedford Public Schools is asking voters to approve a five-year, 0.5-mill "sinking fund" levy for maintenance and repairs. The levy would generate about $527,000 annually for roof work, asbestos removal, and better heating. A sinking fund can't be used for new construction or school district operations.

The levy would cost the owner of a $150,000 home about $37.50 more in property taxes each year. By 57 votes two years ago, voters rejected a sinking-fund levy to address the same repair and maintenance issues.

In Lucas County, the Maumee City School District is asking for a 3.9-mill continuing operating levy. Officials have said that if the levy fails, the school board could close an elementary school, lay off more teachers and staff, and reduce busing, among other cuts. The Maumee levy would generate more than $1.9 million a year. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $119.44 a year.

Superintendent Greg Smith said the school district is losing between $4 million and $5 million annually because of Ohio's phase-out of tangible personal property tax. A state funding freeze and local business closings have hurt as well.

The levy is 2 mills less than what Maumee voters rejected in November. Whatever the outcome, the district plans to slash $750,000 to $1 million from its budget, largely through attrition and other staff reductions.

The Springfield Local School District is asking voters to renew its 1.35-mill, five-year permanent improvement levy. The levy generates $1.05 million a year for building repairs, school buses, technology, and textbooks, and costs the owner of a $100,000 home $38.36 a year.

In Wood County, the Northwood Local School District seeks a permanent improvement levy renewal at a lower rate, but as a continuing levy.

The district is at least a year away from making a decision about new facilities, but the Ohio School Facilities Commission requires districts to have a continuing permanent improvement levy in order to get funding, Northwood Superintendent John Clark said. The 1.75-mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $53.59 a year, down from $57.21 a year with the 2.5-mill levy it would replace, while maintaining about $224,000 in revenue.

Bowling Green City School District voters are being asked to replace the district's current 0.5 percent income tax with a five-year, 1 percent income tax. The additional $3 million a year would not pay for additional staff or programs but could prevent cuts, Superintendent Hugh Caumartin has said. State funding has not increased since 1998, he said, and the district is dealing with a law that does not allow for growth from a property tax once it's passed.

The Otsego Local School District will ask voters to approve a 5-mill, five-year emergency operating levy to raise just under $1.1 million a year. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $153.13 a year.

District officials have said that if the levy fails, the school board will close an elementary school next year and send sixth graders to the junior high in Tontogany, among other cuts. The school board said it would keep all three of Otsego's elementaries open next school year if the levy passes. The district cut about $900,000 from its budget last year and intends to cut $600,000 more this spring, Superintendent Jim Garber said.

In Fulton County, Pike-Delta-York Local School District voters are being asked for a new 0.75 percent income tax to offset revenue the district lost after Ohio phased out its tangible-property tax during the last three years. The income tax, expected to raise about $900,000, will be charged on wages and other earned income, but not on pensions, stock dividends, and the like.

Other issues in northwest Ohio include:

•In the North Baltimore Local School District, a 7.57-mill bond issue and 0.25 percent income tax to assist the district in renovating Powell Elementary and building a new middle and high school on 88 acres east of town on Rudolph Road. The 7.57-mill bond issue would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $231.83 a year.

•In the village of Swanton, a 1.5-mill replacement tax for five years to operate the fire department and a replacement levy of 0.5 mills for five years for permanent park improvements.

•In Napoleon, a 1.3 percent income tax for operations, property acquisition, capital improvements, and economic development.

•In Fulton County, a 1.1-mill, 5-year renewal - meaning taxes stay the same - for seniors' services and facilities, such as the senior center.

•In Hancock County, a 2.5-mill, 5-year renewal of an operating levy for the county Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, including for building, renovating, and running the Blanchard Valley Center. Officials have said the levy would generate $3.8 million a year at a time when the agency is facing more cuts in state aid.



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