Trenton asking voters for street levy after having ‘zero, zilch’ available for recent road repairs

Even with a proposed state gas tax hike on the horizon, Trenton city officials say they need voters to approve a street levy in November because about 40 percent of the roads “are in need of immediate attention.”

The city council last week approved a resolution of necessity to ask voters for up to 6-mills in a temporary, five-year levy in November. Public Works Director Rob Leichman said he hasn’t had money in his budget for repaving in four years and the streets need about $5 million worth of work, or $1 million per year.

“We have not had any funding to pave roads in the last four years, zero, zilch,” he said. “And it’s not a one for one, the deal with roads is you try to catch them before they fail. You want to catch them in a mediocre range if you will.”

The city has done a road survey, and 5 percent are in poor condition with major work needed, and about 34 percent need to be milled and resurfaced. The rest need to be maintained so they don’t deteriorate.

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“You don’t want to wait until they fail so the repair of them is much less expensive, rather than a total gut and replacement,” Leichman said. “Every municipality and jurisdiction fights the same thing, we’re all fighting Mother Nature here, and none of us are going to win the battle.”

The debate in Columbus over Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed 18 cent-per-gallon tax hike — the per-gallon amount keeps changing — will only impact how much of a levy the city needs, according to Finance Director Mike Engle. He said based on numbers he has received from the state, with the latest figure being 11 cents, Trenton would receive about $185,000 in additional money, so the millage request could drop to 5-mills.

The state had a deadline of this weekend to set the tax increase, and until Trenton knows that amount, levy language can’t be written. Engle said the county auditor will provide how much homeowners can expect to pay for the increase after the levy language is set.

The city receives about $420,000 in fuel taxes now, and Leichman said that money has to pay for other things associated with the street department, like maintenance.

The city of Hamilton recently decided to delay asking voters for street funds until March 2020. The amount of the state fuel tax increase will impact the amount that city asks its residents to approve.

Mayor Calvin Woodrey said the public works department recommended the levy because already rough roads are getting worse.

“After the destruction of the winter they felt that the streets were declining quicker than we’d like to see them,” Woodrey said. “They brought this to us so we can keep ahead of our streets.”

Trenton last asked residents for a tax increase in March 2016 when the 5.25-mill police levy passed.

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