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Berlin talks revenue in State of City address

SALEM — Mayor John Berlin said city council may need to consider increases in the vehicle registration permissive tax, cable franchise fees and contractor registration fees due to decreases in income tax collection.

The suggestion came during the mayor’s State of the City address Tuesday night, highlighting the past year’s activities in city government and analyzing changes in city revenues.

He noted that income from the 1 percent permanent income tax actually decreased for the first time in nine years by 2.6 percent or $141,288 and that Salem’s tax rate remains in the lower third of city income tax rates in Ohio.

He said the general fund carryover has been projected to decrease and that the increase to the gasoline tax by the state could offset a need for transfers from the general fund to the street department. Cuts in local and state government funding and elimination of the inheritance tax have also cost the city.

“Since these cuts began in 2013, Salem has lost over $2 million in income, Salem’s general fund carryover balance decreased and there will come a time when more stable sources of income will be needed,” he said.

On a more positive note, he said the renewal of the five-year .25 percent additional income tax will allow for more improvements to city streets. The additional income tax is restricted to usage for improvements to city streets, alleys, sidewalks, parking lots, storm sewers and curbs. The renewal will begin in 2021. After four years of the first five-year levy, more than $4.8 million has been collected. He also said the city’s long-term debt has been reduced to $1,440,560.

Berlin went into great detail on the various departments and what happened in 2019 for those departments, including the streets, police, utilities, parks and city health district. He talked about the various street projects, the purchase of 1,320 tons of salt through the state’s bid program at a cost of $86.62 per ton, which was an increased cost of 40 percent. The street department crack sealed 24 streets in an effort to preserve pavement, reducing the need to buy hot and cold patch by 37 percent. The street department also repaired or replaced 35 catch basins and removed 60 curb lawn trees.

For the utilities department, he highlighted the comings and goings of employees who resigned or retired and the new ones hired and talked about the major projects completed. For the parks, there were a lot of upgrades to park equipment and features, including the duck pond, pool, Swings & Things playground, tennis courts, a new fountain and new prairie garden and the installation of security cameras, giving the police department eyes inside the parks.

The police department updated the radio system to digital for enhanced coverage, upgraded tasers and patrol rifle sights, began monitoring the cameras for both the parks and utilities departments and swore in a new full-time patrolman after a retirement and two new part-timers after two others left. The health department submitted documentation to apply for accreditation, with a site visit expected in the fall, and launched a new Facebook page and updated the department’s website.

The city had six more abandoned houses demolished through the Columbiana County land bank, the Salem Super Cruise was a success and Berlin thanked the beautification committee of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce for its work and the work of the committee which brightened the downtown decorations for Christmas. He thanked the solid waste district for the donation of paper leaf bags.

He thanked the resident volunteers who serve on the various boards and commissions to help the city run smoothly, with 49 residents serving on 11 board or commissions. Also mentioned were the successes of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, which oversees economic development for the city, noting the work being done on a five-year plan.

Berlin closed by thanking all city employees who gave time and money to provide meals at the Banquet in Salem and stressed the always maximum effort given by employees to provide for the welfare and safety of residents and visitors.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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