If you talk to anyone in Barberton, Ohio about what can be improved or what they thought the current administration could be doing better, you will find 2 issues over and over again.
Some that are reading this may disagree but I personally asked residents and came to these conclusions. There were some other issues like drugs and animals but the issues that plague Barberton, Ohio are Roads and Flooding. Drugs are more of an emergency that requires a lot more attention. Just know that our drug problem is my personal number 1 issue. For this post, I am going to speak on the road issue here in Barberton.
Roads are always at the top of anyone’s list because they are the most used public property. This public property has the ability to personally affect us and our wallets by being in poor condition. If you recall and currently still notice, the citizens voted for “Issue 8” back in 2013. This increased our taxes .25% and was for the roads. Due to lack of funding from the State and Federal Government, funds had all but disappeared. Mayor Judge said that the city was operating on a $200k budget when it could be $1 million. The money was just not there and we needed to provide more to keep up with our roads.
To date, the city has collected $5,449,485 dollars and spent $8,434,175 dollars on road repairs. You may be thinking that the numbers cannot be right. How did we only collect $5 Mil but spent $8 Mil. The City of Barberton basically spent more up front (mainly for the 9th St project) and have a financial plan to pay using the Issue 8 money as they can. Just last year in 2017, the City had paid $700k toward that note.
If you know me, I follow everyone’s questions really closely on Twitter and Facebook. People tend to ask why our roads are in the shape they are even with our Issue 8 taxes. This is a great question and until recently, I did not have an answer.
It all starts with the note for 9th street and flows into the recent grant that Barberton has been awarded. The 9th St project put us in the negative to start but there is a financial plan in place to pay that back. All Federal Grants require a 20% match from the grantees. This means that the city has to pay 20% of the total grant to get the grant. Currently, the city is operating in a deficit so they are using the issue 8 taxes to meet the 20% needed. Ultimately, this is why the citizens are asking the question; “Where is our money? Why are the streets not being fixed“
Mike Vinay; the service director said the cities idea is to pay down the debt in order to issue new debt and build a fund balance that will carry Barberton through the other grant-funded projects. Personally, the way this works makes sense to me but I will say that it was not clearly conveyed to the citizens. This whole thing is like a slinky effect where we incur debt by projects but must pay the debt before new projects can start.
If you think about the funds being directly used as they come in, then you may think that you are not seeing anything happening. Unfortunately, street repair costs a lot of money and requires building a fund. This can take time and creates the illusion that nothing is going on. I am not saying that I am completely happy with the streets but now I understand where our money is going and how it is being spent.