CIRCLEVILLE – Last night’s City Council was filled with safety forces, family members, and others who supported a levy that would bring Circleville’s Safety Forces back to basic levels.
During last month’s meeting, Councilman Tom Spring moved to amend the Levy ordinance language that protected the levy funds from being used for other purposes. When this was passed by a 4-2 vote Safety forces turned their backs on Council and left the room.
During the August 6, 2019 meeting, Circleville Council Member Julie Strawser, who initially voted with Spring to remove the language, asked for the language to be placed back in. That was passed 4-2 with Spring and Theis voting against it.
“After talks with Tony Chamberlain, Director of Human Resources, I realized how important to the safety forces this language is. Simply put, Safety forces do not trust the city auditor not to make cuts, and the language will protect that. I’m saddened that there are trust issues, but tonight is the 11th hour, the city is strapped for funds, I don’t see any monies coming in the foreseeable future. In fact, the city may be seeing more trouble in the near future. I wish we had a way to fund our police and fire without asking the people for more money, but we don’t.”
Before the vote, Councilwoman Michelle Blanton said, “In my opinion, now that we have placed a sunset rule on the levy of five years, we have no choice but to at least let this levy go to the ballot and let Circleville make a choice. The monies collected from the levy will not completely pay for Safety forces, so what is the harm in keeping those funds earmarked for them? The levy is the only solution on the table that will remotely get us where we need to be. If there were any other solutions, they would have been brought to the table. So let’s give our safety forces a vote of confidence and support them by passing the Levy ordnance with the supplementary language they want. I would prefer to pass the levy with the sunset rule that in five years the levy would go away. This would give City Council accountability. The sunset law and the supplemental language doesn’t mean that City Council stops asking questions on where current funding is going, in all honesty, we should have been digging into that question all along.”
Councilman Barry Keller missed the last council meeting when the amendments were made, and he wanted to give his opinion. “During a Safety Forces meeting months ago, safety head of both the Circleville Fire Department and the Circleville Police Department gave passionate speeches about how they are operating. I asked them to come up with a plan that they, the Union, and Circleville Management would support, and they delivered. In the last committee meeting, I heard it was a spectacle, and some amendments were made to the levy language that would not gain the support of the safety forces. Tonight we need to pass legislation to send this levy to the voters for, hopefully, their approval to keep our city safe, and to deliver basic services; basic services that everyone deserves.”
Council did pass the ordinance to place the safety levy on the ballot that will increase the city tax rate from 2.0% to 2.5%. This Tax Increase would create a 1.5 million dollar fund that would directly go to support and operations of safety forces. Council did vote to amend that levy for a “sunset” rule so that in five years the city tax rate would return to 2.0%