Taxes for roads favored in Kent survey

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

A community survey on street assessments asked residents the best ways to fund street work, how they would prefer to increase funding for roads, what methods should be used to levy assessments if they remain in place, and whether pending assessments should be waived.

Because the surveys were anonymous, several respondents expressed strong viewpoints ranging on everything from how much the city spends on buildings and staff to their opinions of city officials and council members. Several urged a recall of council.

Many others said they didn't have much time to respond to the survey. The surveys were originally due on June 16 but because they were mailed later than expected, surveys were accepted through July 6.

Several residents said involuntary assessments should be ended, staffing should be reduced, the city should learn to live within its means, and money set aside for the University Town Center Mall should be used for roads. Many also said the city should look to Kent State University because of its impact on roads.

"Stop trying to create Utopia on the Cuyahoga and live within the city's income for a while," one resident said.

Others, however, faulted council for "poor leadership," saying assessments shouldn't be waived, especially when the city is short on funds, and pushed for license plate tax hikes so those who use the roads pay for their upkeep.

"I paid assessments twice," one resident said. "If you waive any, you better go back 30 years for everyone."

Several respondents said it would be a conflict of interest for councilmen Ed Pease and Dan Kamburoff to vote or discuss pending assessments. Kamburoff lives and owns a business on Fairchild Avenue, and Pease has a son who owns property there.

Kamburoff said the survey responses prove "there are a lot of nearsighted, selfish people in this town" and said some responses "bordered on derogatory."

"People don't realize having to pay a $10,000 assessment right now is a burden, and anything I can do to spare people that burden is going to help them in the long run," said Kamburoff, a critic of the assessment policy before he was elected last year.

He also said the survey doesn't show a clear direction to take.

"The common consensus is there is no common consensus," he said.

Pease said the city's law department and the Ohio Ethics Commission have ruled that he does not have a conflict of interest because he is not employed by his son, and that Kamburoff has been advised he has a conflict only on issues related to Fairchild. Residents who believe otherwise are misinformed, he said.

"Just because (Councilman) Bill Schultz doesn't like the way I vote and wants to attack me somehow doesn't make it right," he said. "I think they're making a mountain out of a molehill."

He said he was glad to see so much public input and was surprised to see that so many people favored some kind of tax increase.

"That's a major statement," he said. "Nobody likes taxes or fees, but there's recommendation that an increase might be needed."

Councilman William Schultz, who suggested the survey, said it tells him voters want to spend more money on roads without cutting services, and that they want the chance to vote on any tax hikes.

"The survey is an important tool we have to see where the citizens are at," he said. "I think the survey really challenges city council to listen to what the voters have to say."

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