Members of Kent City Council cast the final vote to put a proposed 0.25 percent income tax increase before voters on the November ballot
Council voted 7-2 to approve putting the issue on the ballot in order to meet the Aug. 8 filing deadline with the Portage County Board of Elections for the November election.
If approved, the measure would raise Kent's income tax rate from 2 percent to 2.25 percent.
The roughly $1.3 million generated each year by the tax increase would be used for property acquisition, design, construction, maintenance and repairs, future expansion or replacement of a new facility.
Councilmen Garret Ferrara and John Kuhar cast the only votes against putting the issue on the ballot.
Ferrara said he opposed putting the issue on the ballot because he doesn't think the city has enough information to explain its necessity to voters and residents.
"How can we ask people to pay for something … that we really have no hard costs on,” Ferrara said. “We need to tell citizens what we’re building, what we’re spending, what it’s going to cost and have a definitive plan for that. And we don’t have it."
The total estimate for replacing the aging police station is $18.36 million. That includes the cost of debt issuance, razing the existing police station, site preparation, furniture, fixtures and equipment, Budget and Finance Director Dave Coffee .
The ballot issue also will include provisions stating police salary expenses would not be paid from the fund and that any excess money, after paying debts, would be placed into a contingency or reserve fund for future police facility expenses. That fund would be capped at $1 million and anything over that would be transferred to the streets and sidewalks fund.
The city would use $1.2 million to pay the annual debt service on the new station, leaving only $100,000 in reserve each year to cover potential cost overruns and operating costs.
Kuhar made the case for putting adding a sunset clause to the ballot issue that would limit the tax hike to a 30-year period — the estimated length of time it would take to pay back the construction costs of the new police building.
"We definitely need a police department," Kuhar said. "There’s no question about that."
But his effort to amend the ordinance passed Wednesday to put a time limit on the tax hike failed.
City administrators have been making the case for a new police and safety building for several years. The existing building was constructed in the 1920s.
One of the more serious issues is the city jail. The jail has not met state standards for several years, but state inspectors have so far given it a pass.
In 2010, a portion of the ceiling collapsed in the administrative offices during off-hours. The city has repaired the building brick facade, its multiple heating and air conditioning units — due to numerous additions over the years — wiring and other problems at great cost
"We’ve had discussions about the police department and the building being in the condition it’s in, which is literally embarrassing it’s in such bad shape," Councilman Wayne Wilson said previously. "Luckily we haven’t had the state come down on us for it."