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Published: Thursday, 3/4/2004

Communities face aftermath of loss at polls

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Bryan city officials were trying to understand yesterday why a longtime, 0.50 percent income tax renewal for streets failed Tuesday at the polls.

And they re also going to have to discuss now how they ll fill the hole in the budget come next year, without the tax money.

“You can t take $1.6 million out of the city budget [annually] and not be affected. Obviously we did not get the word out about the importance of the levy,” Bryan Mayor Douglas Johnson said.

“We ve got to sit down now with council and look what the next step will be.”

City leaders in Bryan had sought the income tax renewal for nine and a half years. The money it raised was to be earmarked for street and sewer repairs and for a building fund for a new police and fire station.

Bryan was one of many communities having to face the primary election defeat of tax requests.

Two major losers were in Paulding County.

Another request for MRDD was shot down in November, 2002, while the same request as Tuesday s ballot issue also was defeated at the polls in November, 2003.

And in the small, Paulding County village of Cecil, residents defeated two property tax issues that would have funded village expenses and provided money for the fire department.

Cecil voters had shot down levy requests for the village during the fall election. At that time, five tax issues were before the town s 216 residents.

Byron Keeler, who serves at Cecil s clerk-treasurer, has said a 5-mill issue would have raised about $7,000 a year for current expenses, and a 9-mill tax would have generated $12,700 a year for fire protection.

The village, with an annual budget of $28,000, is about $30,000 in the hole, Mr. Keeler has said.

Mr. Keeler could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But Jane Gray, director of community services for the agency, said the board meets on March 18 and likely will discuss the matter at that time.

The MRDD had requested the 3.47-mill additional levy, which would have generated nearly $1 million annually. The tax request, if approved, was to be the first new levy since 1993.

The board has requested the money to maintain operations, which include a variety of services for about 100 people with disabilities.

After a levy defeat in the fall, Ms. Gray said the agency cut the equivalent of about 31/2 positions, from a field of about 35 employees. She said any additional cuts have yet to be decided.

The tax failure came on the heels of a massive door-to-door campaign, in which about 80 volunteers for the MRDD canvassed the county s homes. She said the group reached nearly 8,000 homes in the effort.

On a smaller scale, another tax issues was defeated by voters in Fulton County s Gorham Township. Residents there defeated a new 0.5-mill, five-year levy for roads, but they approved a 0.4-mill, five year levy renewal for cemetery operations.

The new road tax had been controversial, and at one point in the levy campaign, Fayette Councilman Don Stiriz said he planned to vote against the township s request that for the first time would have taxed the village of Fayette as well as the township.

He added that he would urge others to vote no as well.



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