[updated] Financial Situation Town Hall Re-Cap

For those residents who were unable to attend last Wednesday night's City of Pepper Pike Town Hall regarding the financial situation, here is a summary that reflects my impressions.  I do not speak for any other Member of Council or the Mayor or any other resident in terms of what they heard or how they heard it, but I welcome (and invite) the thoughts of other residents who were able to attend. There will be a second town hall this Tuesday evening at 7:30pm, also to be held at the Moreland Hills Elementary School.

We think about 200 people were there Wednesday night.  I counted 28 questions and/or comments from residents, with only one resident asking two sets of questions, so a total of 27 residents voiced comments and/or questions.  A summary of what was said/implied:

1. People are not liking the inequity of a .75 income tax increase only, with no credit increase and no credit limit increase and no accompanying road or safety levy (to even it out so that all residents contribute to the solvency problem) and no fee for service arrangements; the main reasons were the burden on wage earners, the possibility that businesses will leave the city for places where their workers won't have to pay as much and the reality that other communities give higher credits to residents who work outside their hometown.

2. People feel like the city should try more ways to cut and be efficient including but not limited to reducing or eliminating the size of the dispatch center (most people favored jettisoning some or all of the dispatch center, particularly emergency where it's 911 and still our safety forces responding)

3. A majority gave a round of applause for cutting the cost of garbage collection even if it meant having to put garbage at the end of our driveways.

NB: A couple of folks have indicated to me that they didn't think the round of applause was for the garbage being placed at the end of the driveways. I would agree with that and apologize if I made it sound like I thought the clapping was for putting garbage at the end of our drives. 

What I believe the clapping was for was the idea that people would be willing to pay a fee for garbage services and that they would be willing to see a savings in that fee even if that might require (or include the option of) putting garbage at the end of the driveway.

Again, to be clear, I live on South Woodland, a main road. I am not excited about the vision of large garbage cans lining such a main road with so much traffic that often seems to be going too fast.  And I understand how the appeal of Pepper Pike to residents often includes this image of us not having such a tableau. But the purpose of the town halls includes hearing how all residents feel about such issues and the parameters they think about when considering the choices Council and the City is facing.

Thanks for those who've voiced their thoughts on this.

4. People asked about being able to be charged fees for services.

5. People were very unhappy about the lack of long-term thinking in terms of how such a big increase will affect the city's ability to attract 1) new homeowners who are wage earners and 2) businesses since communities around us have lower income taxes for non-resident employees.

6. People demonstrated that they are extremely sophisticated when it comes to taxes and their finances, so the emphasis placed on keeping it simple with just one very simple increase, as inequitable as it may be, appears to be oversimplified.

7. Not a single person spoke up to say, "I pay school levies and don't have kids in the school so don't make me pay anything else." This is to say that there was a general interest in exploring how all residents could contribute to the solvency; One note: a resident did inform me after the town hall that he never votes for school levies and never votes for tax increases.

8. People want financial info on the web. I've gotten cleared by the law director to do this and am starting to identify and receive documents from the finance director. It will, no surprise, take time but please identify to me what you're interested in seeing posted (it is, for the most part, all public).

9. People's comments indicated that the phrase, "Let's keep Pepper Pike Pepper Pike" may not mean the same thing to all residents when faced with having to make choices regarding their income. With the current .75% increase (without an increase in the credit or the credit limit, and without assessing any fees or property tax through which all residents could participate in helping the city's solvency), the burden to keep the City the way some residents might imagine Pepper Pike should remain falls exclusively on the wage-earning residents, wage-earning non-residents and their employers.  Comments made at the town hall regarding an interest in charging fees, tinkering with the tax credit and credit limit, making more spending cuts, continuing to pursue regionalism and service sharing and finding a way to spread the cost of taxes indicate that residents are willing to sacrifice some amenities and services which other residents may deem as essential to "keeping Pepper Pike Pepper Pike."

I've received numerous calls and emails since Wednesday night and I hope the dialogue continues.

I have argued for making sure that, as we examine revenue-raising options, to the extent that we believe that we do need to raise more revenue, we must seek to have the options achieve the following:

-spread the burden equitably;
-provide transparency;
-retain pressure on ourselves to continue to look for efficiencies;
-hold us accountable for the taxpayers' money;
-give residents without taxable income the ability to participate in the solution since they have specifically asked what they can do to help the situation.

Based on the residents' voices heard at the town hall and those I've heard via email or phone call, I feel strongly that Council must continue to explore how to incorporate these values in its solvency solution.

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