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Circleville City Council Aims to Put Safety Levy on Ballot Again, City Concerned on Budget

city council, city of Circleville

[CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio – July 2, 2024] — The Circleville City Council is set to hear the first reading of an ordinance proposing the placement of a safety levy back on the ballot. This proposal, which originated from the finance committee, comes after two previous attempts to pass the levy failed in recent election cycles. In the most recent vote in March, the levy was narrowly defeated by just 51 votes, and the city hopes citizens will reconsider their stance.

During the June 25 finance committee meeting, speakers highlighted the critical importance of the safety levy, which is set to expire on December 31, 2024. Discussions focused on the potential negative impacts of failing to pass the levy, including a significant reduction in the city’s ability to provide essential services and potential layoffs within the police and fire departments.

Councilwoman Katie Logan Hedges stated, “This proposal, presented by the mayor, aims to put a safety levy back on the ballot this November 5. It reduces the current 0.5% income tax rate to 0.4% showing the citizens that we are trying to be responsible with the levy and funds. If this levy fails, our safety forces would face a significant decrease in funding, which we outlined in our last finance meeting.”

Mayor Blanton echoed these concerns, explaining the significant consequences of not passing the levy. “Without the safety levy, the city budget would see a significant decrease of over $2 million. This shortfall would force us to reallocate expenses from other funds or make substantial cuts across the budget.”

Councilman Zack Brooks, who has previously criticized the Circleville Police Department, expressed his support for the levy. “If we don’t get these funds approved, our streets, parks, and other services will suffer. While I have been a critic of the police department’s leadership in the past, it’s the officers on the ground who will be affected if this levy doesn’t pass. They deserve our support.”

The city has faced significant changes within the police department, including the release of both the police chief and deputy chief following investigations. The mayor is currently seeking new leadership for the department, including a safety director, a position that remains unfilled despite several interviews. The mayor is currently asking the council to pass an ordinance to open up the Chief position to candidates outside of Circleville with the agreement that they become a Circleville resident within 90 days of appointment, opening up more candidates for the position.

Councilman Brooks emphasized the need for the levy to ensure the continued support of police and fire services. “While I’ve been critical of past leadership, the officers patrolling our streets deserve financial and moral support. The safety levy will improve their quality of life, and without it, they will face severe cuts.”

Brooks also noted ongoing efforts to address and improve the issues within the police department. “We’re working on making steps in the right direction. The safety levy is crucial for our community, and I fully support it. We’re working on helping the Council and the administration recognize the major issues and find ways to improve them. I’ve had conversations with President Keller and the mayor, and I believe we’re making good steps in that direction. The police department will be on the up and up for those who have looked at me, recognizing that while I have been a significant critic of past issues, our focus must be on moving forward and improving what we have now. Do I support the safety levy? Absolutely. I’ll be out knocking on doors during the election campaign.”

The ordinance will be reviewed further in the coming council meetings, with hopes of securing the necessary support to place the safety levy on the November ballot.

Ordinance language below is in for its first readings tonight in Council Chambers

Originated in the Finance Cmte Finance Mtg 6.25.24 Chair Hedges with Hallinin and Duvall
a. An Ordinance Replacing The One-Half Percent (.50%) Income Tax Rate Increase
Allocated For The Purpose Of Operating And Maintaining The Safety Forces In The
City Of Circleville, To Be Expended For The Safety Forces Prior To The Use Of The
Funds Allocated To The General Fund, With A 0.40% Per Annum Income Tax For A
Five Year Period, Effective From January 1, 2025 And Expiring December 31, 2029,
Directing The Pickaway County Board Of Elections To Submit This Ordinance To The
Electors Of The City Pursuant To Ohio Revised Code, Section 718.04 And Declaring An