CIRCLEVILLE – City voters will be asked two questions on a special August 3 Ballot, and the answer will determine the shape of city government for years to come the two questions would be:
“Shall a commission be formed to create a charter?”
“To elect the 15 members of the charter commission that have volunteered.”
A “yes” vote would begin the process of the charter members to start meeting monthly and begin to develop the proposal to convert city government from a statutory form to a charter form. Then the citizens of Circleville would vote again to change to the form of government.
Supporters believe the proposed charter will provide a more efficient, effective and accountable form of government than the current statutory system and provide more consistency for the business of the city that has sometimes been interrupted at great cost by abrupt changes in administration and direction.
Opponents of the charter express concerns about a loss of checks and balances in the proposed system and a loss of officials elected by voters, along with the cost of the transition from the current form of government.
Currently, the city of Circleville operates with an elected mayor in charge of administration and an elected city council led by a council president with three at-large members and four others, one representing each of the city’s four wards. Other elected offices include the city auditor, treasurer and law director.
Under the proposed charter, the administration would be run by a city manager hired by and reporting to city council, effectively replacing the position of mayor.
City council would still consist of four ward council members and three at-large members, but one of those at-large seats would then be designated to serve as ceremonial mayor for the city as well as council president.
The city manager would then appoint a law director as well as a finance director that would take the place of both the treasurer and auditor, eliminating those three elected positions.
Another big advantage, supporters say, is consistency within city government, which currently sees all council members coming up for election at the same time. Under the proposed charter, elections for council seats will be staggered between years to eliminate the possibility of an entirely new council coming into office at the same time.
The city manager position also would help maintain consistency for city administration, which is currently headed by a mayor serving a four-year term.
“Over the years, the city has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on projects that were a priority for one administration, but a new administration comes in, and it’s not a priority,” said Barry Keller, council member, at a public meeting explaining the charter in February. “A city manager will not come and go with politics. It will be consistent, more efficient and save taxpayer dollars by having a professional person in that position.”
All registered voters in the city of Circleville will be mailed a copy of the proposed charter before voting.
This is not the first time that City Council has considered this form of government, it was proposed in 2014 a charter commission was formed, but the citizens of Circleville voted it down in 2016.
There are around 200 cities in Ohio with charter governments along with many more villages. Around 60 % of Ohio Cities have charter governments. Cities with more than 50,000 people charter governments are common.