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City leaders mull special election

Ironton voters are likely to face a full ballot in November but may have to head to the polls early to vote on the floodwall levy.

A change in state law may force the city to call a special election before Sept. 1 so that the levy can be voted on. The state is phasing out personal property tax portion of tax collection reimbursement to cities over the next decade or so.

"The way I understand it, the state will start phasing that out because they are trying to keep that money for their own budget," council chairman Jim Tordiff said. "The timing for legislation for outside levies becomes critical. We will not keep it forever but how soon we are affected depends on when we have the levy in place."

The county collects real estate and personal property taxes from businesses and residents. Real estate taxes are based on actual property values. Personal property taxes are based off of inventory and equipment assets of business and industry. A portion of this is reimbursed to the county and, in turn, the city.

The floodwall system includes the earthen levees, the stone floodwalls, the floodgates and an elaborate system of valves and pumping stations to keep high water at bay.

For years, the floodwall levy has generated approximately $150,000 to fund the program. However, voters did not renew the levy last year, prompting city officials to pass a $3 fee until it could be voted on again.

That time may be sooner than anyone thought.

A special election costs approximately $10,000 but not having the levy passed by the September deadline could cost the city more than that, City Finance Director Cindy Anderson said. Council asked Anderson to research the exact numbers and for the city attorneys to see if there is still time to call a special election.

When they head to the polls this year, Ironton residents could be asked to support a levy for the school system, a levy for the city's floodwall system, a countywide law enforcement levy and a municipal fee.

Tordiff also asked Anderson to prepare a tentative 2006 budget that will be helpful as the city continues to look at ways to address its financial shortfalls.

"We have to have a game plan in place if we are serious about the educational process to the voters about the municipal fee. This is the end of May. I was thinking we would have some sort of presentations that would take three months," Tordiff said. "… We have to say, 'here is how majority of council feels and this is what will happen if the municipal fee doesn't pass.'"

In other business:

4Council approved a 1-year contract extension with Fraternal Order of Police and The Ohio Labor Council, Inc.

4Authorized Mayor John Elam to award bids for fire equipment that will be paid for with grant funds.

4Authorized Elam to send a letter to the state expressing support to reestablish a hospital in the county. The city will have to help raise $8,000 as its share of a feasibility study.

4Authorized the mayor to take a $75,000, zero-interest loan from the Ohio Public Works Commission to fix the hole on Railroad Street. It will be repaid over 20 years from the wastewater revenue fund.