City drops $2.50 utility surcharge

SANDUSKY The proposed $2.50 utility surcharge has been pronounced "dead on arrival."
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

The proposed $2.50 utility surcharge has been pronounced "dead on arrival."

Those were the words of Sandusky CityCommission president Dennis Murray Jr. atMonday night's meeting.

Now the city is looking for other ways toresuscitate its struggling budget.

To help manage the anticipated budget deficit,city manager Matt Kline and the city's audit finance committee recommended at the last commission meeting that the city add a$2.50 temporary surcharge per month per utility customer for the next three years. The commission opposed it.

One solution is off the table, but the budget problem is not.

"It's gonna get ugly," Commissioner Dan Kaman said. "It's either going to be taxes or cuts inpersonnel."

Finance Director Ed Widman said the city has already reduced personnel not with layoffs, but by simply not replacing retirees.

"I would rather cut services than cut people," Commissioner Brett Fuqua said.

"I think we should tax the tourists," Commissioner Julie Farrar said. "I'm not after Cedar Point. I'm after some kind of revenue."

Farrar said it would be unfair to Cedar Point for the city to raise admission tax at this point in the year, and since the bed tax is at its limit, the city should look into rental and parking taxes for tourists.

Farrar also said Sandusky has the lowest income tax she's ever seen.

To alleviate some of the financial pessimism, Kline said the budget is not entirely bleak. Estate tax revenue has increased, and many employers in the area have reported successful years.

"We will have a strong, death-like grip on our expenses," Kline said.

"We're going to make it through '08 -- it's '09 when the charts start going in the wrong direction," Commissioner Craig Stahl said.

The commission also voted Monday to write a letter of objection to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio protesting the proposed rate hike from Columbia Gas.

"I don't mind paying money out of my pocket, but I don't like being pick-pocketed by Columbia Gas," Commissioner Dave Waddington said.

Last week, Columbia Gas of Ohio announced it intends to file a request with the Public Utilities Commission for a base rate increase that would raise the average customer's monthly gas bill by $5.64.