Council moves on tax budget, union contract, sales tax, runoff

By Jason Hawk -

Mayor Mark Costilow

Mayor Mark Costilow

Roughly $29.2 million will comprise Amherst’s budget for 2017, according to tax estimates presented Monday to city council.

Auditor David Kukucka said the figure is his “best guess” of the city’s financial position for next year.

Council has until July 20 to approve and submit revenue numbers to county officials. They are used to determine what chunk of property tax collections are given to Amherst.

In other business:

• Council is poised to sign a new three-year contract with members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 277, which represents most city workers.

Under the proposal, employees would get a two percent raise effective Jan. 1, followed in 2018 by another two percent and in 2019 by a 1.5 percent increase.

The deal is the same struck with AFSME back in 2014, with one concession: now workers will get to carry over up to 80 hours of compensatory time each year.

Usually these contracts don’t materialize until at least November but mayor Mark Costilow went to workers early. Talks have not, however, started yet with police union members.

“I think this shows that public unions can work. I think they can work in the best interests of the city and its residents,” said councilman Joe Miller, who called the contract “fair.”

• Council is fast-tracking a vote to create a sales tax fund for beverages sold at the Anna Schauch Memorial Pool concession stand at Maude Neiding Park.

Kukucka said no sales tax has been collected for years. Soda, flavored water, icees, and other beverages (with the exception of plain drinking water) must be taxed. Food items are non-taxable under the law.

The items is expected to pass in a quick vote with emergency status.

• Council is preparing to spend about $270,000 in Ohio Turnpike funds to mitigate water runoff problems around town.

The grant money will pay for a retention pond at the former Shupe Elementary School that will slow down water entering Beaver Creek and limit erosion and flooding problems, according to Aaron Appell of Bramhall Engineering.

It will also pay for a bioretention area that will filter water at the Middle Ridge Road turnpike service area. Appell said parking areas there are heavily salted during the winter; filtration will help remove pollutants.

If approved by council, the expenditures will result in construction next spring.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

Mayor Mark Costilow Mark Costilow

By Jason Hawk