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Published: Wednesday, 1/2/2008

Citizens' group still 'optimistic' for vote; '08 goal is getting merger issue on ballot

BY MIKE JONES
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

A citizens' group that narrowly missed getting a merger commission issue on November's ballot in both Sylvania and the township has continued to circulate a new set of petitions and leaders are confident they will be successful this year.

Pam Haynam, a chair of One Sylvania, estimated that group members have collected about 1,500 signatures so far and said she is "very optimistic" that the goal of roughly 2,500 signatures will be achieved before the petition deadline this summer.

The group didn't start to collect signatures until July 4 last year and fell short of its goal when 200 signatures of the total needed, about 1,900, were disallowed. Petitions signed by about 2,300 people were turned in at the Aug. 23 deadline.

Ms. Haynam said a much earlier start and more careful review to determine any invalid signatures in advance should result in meeting the requirements to get the issue on the ballot this year.

She said residents can expect to see teams of volunteers with petitions at the polls in March.

To get a merger commission on the ballot, the group needed 1,050 valid signatures of registered voters in the township and 754 from those registered to vote in the city.

The move to get a merger commission on the ballot failed when the Lucas County Board of Elections ruled that the petitions were about 100 short of the required number of valid signatures from township voters.

If the issue is on November's ballot, township and city residents will be asked to vote for the establishment of a commission to study the possibility of merging the two communities.

The long-discussed move was given impetus by two consultant reports that have suggested there are potential benefits to having one government in the community. Each report suggested there could be efficiencies in merging the governments.

If merged, income taxes would be paid to the new city government, but the most recent study suggested that most residents pay municipal income tax either to Sylvania, Toledo, or whatever municipality they work in. The greater income to the new city would allow for a reduction in real estate tax to property owners.

A University of Toledo study said income to the new municipality could jump about $12 million more than the current city of Sylvania receives and that property taxes could be reduced by a total of about $9 million.

Supporters recently have suggested that the ongoing problems with funding the township fire department underscore the problems of trying to finance township services through new or increased real estate taxes.

They contend the problem would go away when a central municipal government is in charge of safety forces.

If One Sylvania is successful in getting its issue on the ballot, voters will have two groups of five proposed commission members to elect or to vote against. One slate will be made up of township residents and the other group will be city residents.

Both city and township voters would have to vote in favor of establishing a commission for it to be created.

If elected, commissioners would work as one group, but each slate of five would have to vote in favor of putting the final question of a merger to voters in an election.

The commission also could decide a merger isn't feasible and the process would end.

Although a commission would determine how to go forward, One Sylvania members have suggested a number of public meetings would be held to hear citizen concerns.

Members also would likely study other mergers in Ohio before making their proposal to the public.



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