Hamilton’s street-repair levy passed. What comes next?

With Hamilton’s street-repair tax levy officially approved by a narrow margin, city staff are working to figure out how they will gather input from neighborhoods about which streets should be paved first.

A key promise they made in seeking the 10-year, 3.9-mill levy known as Issue 1 was that neighborhoods will have input into which residential streets in their areas will be paved first. Another was that each of the city’s 17 neighborhoods will receive a proportional share of residential streets paved during the next decade.

“In other words,” the city announced this week in a social-media post, “a neighborhood that has 10 percent of the total miles of residential streets in the city will receive 10 percent of the proceeds from the levy toward paving projects in that neighborhood over the next decade.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The levy will generate about $3.1 million a year, or $31 million across the decade.

Taxes from the levy will start to be collected in early 2021, based on property values as they were estimated on Jan. 1, 2020, said Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds. He said county Treasurer Nancy Nix will mail out tax bills typically in January, payable in February, with a second bill mailed out in about August and payable in September.

The levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home $136.50 per year, or the owner of a $75,000 home $102.38. Half of the tax amount will be billed the first part of the year, and the other half with the second billing.

Originally, city officials envisioned holding five open houses to get input on which streets should be paved first.

“Given that such gatherings are currently severely restricted, the city is exploring ways in which to gather input from residents digitally for the time being,” officials announced. That topic is expected to be discussed at Hamilton City Council’s next meeting.

Paving will start in 2021, said city Director of Engineering Rich Engle. “Stay tuned. We’re excited about getting started.”

The levy money will not be spent on state highways.

Residential streets are paved using money from Hamilton’s share of Ohio’s gasoline taxes and from license-tag fees. Gasoline-tax receipts likely will drop in coming months, even with recent increases in the tax levels, because people are driving less during the coronavirus crisis, Engle said.

During 2021, “should large gatherings be permitted, the city will look to conduct the open houses as originally planned, along with digital input,” officials announced.

City leaders, while pleased with the election results, acknowledged there is skepticism among voters about the tax levy, with almost half voting against it.

Joshua Smith in the city announcement said, “We have 10 years to show improvement and build confidence and transparency in how the funds are spent.”

“I recognize almost half the citizens who voted were against the levy,” Smith said. “To the fullest extent possible, I want to work with the City Council to ensure the residents of our neighborhoods dictate where available funds will be allocated to improve their streets.”

Officially, the levy passed by a 104-point margin, as officials corrected it on Wednesday.

On election night, the unofficial margin was announced to be passage by 101 points. On Tuesday, the board announced a passage margin of 96 votes. But on Wednesday, election officials corrected that figure, announcing the system that uploads the numbers to their website hadn’t included provisional ballots.

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