Will taxes go up in Middletown? Voters to decide whether to fund street repairs

“It’s your city and the decision is yours” are the parting words of Middletown City Manager Jim Palenick in a video about the upcoming ballot issue for street paving and improvements on Nov. 3.

In late July, Middletown City Council approved placing the ballot issue to raise the city’s 1.75% income tax by 0.25% for 10 years and use those additional revenues exclusively for street paving and improvements. The additional 0.25% would generate about $3.1 million a year to leverage a bond issue for a massive $31.1 million comprehensive street improvement/paving project in 2021 and 2022, paving about 137 lane miles of streets.

In 2020, the city will be spending more than $4.2 million in paving. Between 2016-2020, the city paved 60 lane miles for $9.7 million, according to city officials.

ExploreMiddletown council places income tax increase for streets on November ballot

A website has been created with information about the ballot issue and frequently asked questions at middletownstreetlevy.com.

“We’re eager. We realize the need to invest in our streets and roads,” Palenick said. “We want to walk the walk and make sure this project is credible. We want citizens to know if they bestow a vote for this increase, we will do the right thing on their behalf.”

The city maintains more than 621 lane miles of roadway, and 59% are rated as being in excellent, good or fair condition, according the latest Pavement Condition Index last done in 2017. The remaining 41% are rated as being in poor, very poor or failed conditions, according to Scott Tadych, city public works and utilities director.

The city evaluates streets and roads biannually, and Tadych is hoping to pave another 126 lane miles over the next five years. If the income tax increase is approved, that could go up to 200 lane miles of paving over that time.

The total cost to repave all city streets is about $160 million.

ExploreMiddletown outlines 2020 street paving program: Where it’s happening

He said the cost per lane mile to pave streets is between $125,000 and $250,000, depending on the street’s condition.

The city’s first income tax, 1.5%, was approved by voters in 1969. In 2007, voters approved a 0.25% income tax increase that was dedicated for public safety expenditures, raising the city’s income tax to 1.75%. That 0.25% increase was made permanent in 2012.

Middletown residents also receive 100% reciprocity for income tax paid to other jurisdictions where they work.

ExploreMiddletown planning major upgrades to Central Avenue to improve traffic

In the past 20 years, city councils have unsuccessfully attempted to raise the income tax that would have a percentage earmarked for streets. In 2018, Mayor Larry Mulligan proposed such an increase but did not have the support of council to place it on the ballot.

Also in 2018, the city’s Charter Review Commission considered a proposal to require a portion of the city’s income tax be allocated to street paving/repairs and capital improvements but did not recommend it to council to place on the ballot.

On the Nov. 3 general election ballot, the Middletown levy question will be Issue 3 for Warren County voters and Issue 15 for Butler County voters.

How will the city decide which streets will get paved first?

  • Pavement Condition
  • Traffic Volume/Safety Concerns
  • Maintenance Cost (i.e. are we constantly filling potholes)
  • Utility Considerations (i.e. are any water, sewer, gas or electric projects scheduled)
  • Complaints Received

Source: City of Middletown

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