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Ironton councilmen talk tax levy: Tordiff to have forum on city finances on Tuesday

On Nov. 2, Ironton voters will see on their ballots a question about whether they are for or against a 1.75 percent levy. The purpose of the levy is to provide revenue for the general needs and expenditures of the city.

Ironton City Councilmen Jim Tordiff and Chuck O’Leary have been going door to door and trying to explain why the city needs the additional revenue.

“We’ve covered half the city so far,” Tordiff said. “And the things I am hearing are people are frustrated. They have the opinion that council is forcing another tax on them.”

He said that he would like to clear that up.

The city is facing a lot of things that require large amounts of money to repair, including $11 million dollars for the final phase of the Ohio EPA-mandated separation of the wastewater and sewage lines and $50,000 to fix up the wastewater treatment plant.

“And the list goes on and on. All these things take money,” Tordiff said.

To further explain things, Tordiff will be holding a forum on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Ohio University Southern’s Bowman Auditorium to talk about the tax increase and the city’s finances.

“I am paying for the auditorium myself,” he explained, adding that he was told by the city legal counsel that other council members can attend, but can’t take questions or comment. Otherwise, it would be a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law. If there are four council members and then they can call a special meeting. “I will give a presentation of facts rather than generalizations. Every citizen is invited to attend.”

The forum will also be livestreamed at 7 p.m. on All Points Business & Politics on Facebook.

Tordiff said they aren’t asking citizens for money for the benefit of their political careers. Both Tordiff and O’Leary are running for re-election in November.

“Do you really think that city council members got together right before the election and said, “Hey, I know what we should do… make everybody mad at us and ruin our political careers. Let’s ask for a big tax increase,’” Tordiff said. “That’s the last thing anyone would want to do.”

He said they decided to put political careers aside and do the right thing.

“That’s why we put it to the citizens to tell us, yes or no, on a tax increase,” he said. “We, as a council, could just slap on a $30 a month municipal fee and the public couldn’t do a thing about it. It would bring in the same $1.5 million dollars a year that the proposal would bring in. Now that would be driving something down their throats.”

O’Leary said that are some things that will go by the wayside, such as alley cleanup and such. He said that one thing that will not go away is the $11 million for the sewer separation and the $600,000 renovation of the water plant.

“Those will have to be paid for, whether I am there or Jim is there, whether a mayor we don’t even know is there,” he said. “It is going to have to be paid for. There is no way to do that without raising fees.”

Tordiff said that cities used to get federal revenue sharing money, but that was cut to pay for the national deficit.

“It was $250,000 and we used to designate that to the police department,” Tordiff said. “That was  a big chunk of money taken away from us.”

He said there is no magical answer for Ironton’s financial problem.

“If there was, somebody in the past 45 years would have come out with a big splash and said ‘You’re doing something wrong, this is what you are missing,” he said.

O’Leary pointed out the city has lost 4,000 jobs since the early 80s.

“Good paying jobs and we have absorbed that,” he said. “Since then, we haven’t generated any real high-paying jobs.”

He said to put it in perspective, the city would have to have 60 Gateway Center projects to create $1 million in tax revenue.

He said to get plants and other businesses that hire a lot of people and pay good wages, the city has to have the infrastructure in place.