Kent income tax hike only supported by 3 precincts

Kyle McDonald and Thomas Gallick Published:

By Kyle McDonald and Thomas Gallick | Staff Writers

The Kent Police Department’s levy for a 0.25 percent income tax increase to fund a new Safety Administration Building was favored by voters in only three of the city’s 21 voting precincts.

Voters in precincts 1B, 6B and 6D voted favorably, but overall the measure lost 5,263 to 4,240, according to complete but unofficial results from the Portage County Board of Elections.

Precinct 1B, bordered by Major’s Lane, Fairchild Avenue, North Water Street and West Main Street supported the income tax increase by a 316 to 236 vote.

The bordering precincts of 6B and 6D, together encompassing Lake Street between Miller and First avenues, the neighborhood north of Kent State University between North Lincoln Street and Overlook Drive and a portion of campus including Jackson and Theater Drives, voted 270 to 199 and 163 to 159, in each respective district.

With a majority of the voters opposed to the Kent Police Department’s ballot initiative, the city’s administration and council are now evaluating how to interpret the voters’ message and create an initiative likely to pass.

Ward 1 Councilman Garret Ferrara, who opposed placing the issue on the ballot, said there’s no question that the current 88-year-old building at Haymaker Parkway and South Water Street is substandard and ought to be replaced, but though the public did not have an understanding of what the end product of a new police complex would look like.

“There wasn’t a definitive cost, there wasn’t a definitive rendering and there wasn’t a definitive location that they marketed, and to me that’s important,” Ferrara said, adding that he would have liked to see requests for proposals and more preparation.

“That costs money, so I can see where the administration comes from, but in my opinion, I would’ve preferred they had gone out and done that and come back and said, ‘This is how much it’s going to cost, this is who we’re going to select to do it.”

Ferrara said he felt council’s decision to drop the requested tax increase from 0.5 percent down to 0.25 percent added to the uncertainty of the project.

“They marketed it as: ‘The old one is bad.’ It is, and I’ll stand on that,” he said. “Take some time, plan it out, look at some of the other options.”

Kent Safety Director Bill Lillich said the administration did propose a cost, $18.36 million dollars, and had a detailed plan of how that money would be used.

“We just didn’t pull those numbers out of the air,” Lillich said. “We wanted to try to make it so (the new building) would meet the city’s needs for 50 years.”

Lillich said the next step now that the voters turned down the tax increase was for the administration to evaluate the vote and decide a path forward toward seeking funds for a new building.

He said the size and cost of the building are not completely set in stone going forward. He said he hopes city officials agree to bring the issue back to the voters soon, while the issue is still “fresh” in the mind of the public.

“Can we wait a couple of years?” Lillich said. “Sure, but it gets riskier every year.”

The ceiling of the building collapsed in 2010, and the expensive fix the city paid for afterwards was only guaranteed to last through the end of this year.

Lillich said awaiting the next big structural failure in the building poses a threat not only to the city’s finances, but the health and safety of the community’s police officers. 

Contact Thomas Gallick at 330-298-1126 or tgallick@recordpub.com

Contact Kyle McDonald at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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