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Middletown mayor: City needs roads levy now

A proposed 10-year, 0.25-percent increase in Middletown’s city income tax that would generate $3.2 million annually for street repairs.
A proposed 10-year, 0.25-percent increase in Middletown’s city income tax that would generate $3.2 million annually for street repairs.

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest column by Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan. To read complete coverage of this issue, click here.

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Middletown City Council is considering a proposed income tax levy to address street improvements, to be voted on at its August 7 meeting. The proposal includes a 0.25% increase for 10 years, which would generate about $3.2 million annually, dedicated to street repaving. I believe Council should allow the citizens to vote on this referendum in November for a number of reasons. First, our city streets are a primary concern to many residents. Second, the city has very limited financial resources to address ever decaying streets. And, third, if we fail to address the issue now, the cost will only increase in future years.

During my time on council and as Mayor, the condition of our streets and roadways has been a significant concern to many. Many fellow citizens raised the issue of potholes, limited maintenance and the condition of the city’s streets as disappointments and an item that needed to be addressed. There is significant pride in Middletown; with our streets deteriorating and pothole ridden is not the image of Middletown we want to project to the region and visitors. The current administration, as well as previous administrations, has diligently worked to allocate scarce resources from the general fund to the streets. The challenge over the past decade, and before, has been to focus on critical services of public safety as a priority, which resulted in limiting funding for other areas of the city.

Larry Mulligan Jr. is the mayor of Middletown
Larry Mulligan Jr. is the mayor of Middletown

Since the mid-1980’s, when a referendum was held to eliminate a dedicated capital budget allocation, and it was passed by the citizens, funding for maintaining our infrastructure has steadily declined. More recently, the recession, beginning in 2008, created further stress on the city’s budget and further limited funding available for maintenance and repairs. The State of Ohio has reduced local government funds, eliminated personal property taxes and the estate tax, for the overall improvement of the state, but borne by local governments facing reduced budgets and increasing expenditures.

The city currently has in excess of 600 lane miles of roads, the majority of which are rated “fair to failed” by the most recent pavement conditions survey. Today, only 35% of the roads are rated good to excellent. If we do not act to address the situation in the near future, many of the roads that are in marginal condition, will begin to fail, which will further increase the cost to repair them.

Earlier estimates of the cost to repair and maintain our streets increased from around $120 million to a current estimate of $160 million. Even when it is spread over the 20 year life of a repaved street, the annual cost is significant. City Council and the City Manager made good progress towards reaching an improved level of sustainability. However to succeed in reaching that level, it will require additional job growth and new residents in Middletown. I am optimistic that we will ultimately achieve that level, but as a city, we must act now to address this issue. I would encourage Middletown residents to carefully consider this tax increase as an investment in our future. Please reach out to council members to share your thoughts.