City asks for tax renewal, ordinance updates

Staff Report

Local taxpayers are being asked to support the city of Oberlin and sustainability efforts through one renewal levy and two ordinances on the Nov. 7 ballot.


City council is asking residents to approve a 0.2 percent municipal income tax continuation, which generates $600,000 annually.

The renewal levy makes up 28 percent of the income tax capital improvement fund’s annual revenue. The fund pays for street paving and maintenance, fire and police vehicles and other safety equipment, and parks and cemetery improvements, said finance director Sal Talarico.

The 10-year levy is set to expire at the end of 2018, leaving three chances for voters to renew it: November 2017, May 2018, and November 2018.

Fire chief Bob Hanmer said 18-year-old engine 41 is nearing the end of its usable service life. The current fire truck is in need of $50,000 of repairs and will be expected to be out of service for six months unless it is replaced. A new truck could be paid for through the levy — the anticipated replacement cost is near $700,000.

Without the income tax, funding would have to be found elsewhere in the budget to pay for infrastructure and capital needs.

Nearly $1 million in street improvements, $100,000 in fire department equipment, and just over $100,000 in police department vehicles and safety equipment were paid for through the 2017 income tax improvement fund.

Other highlights include $100,000 worth of improvements at Westwood Cemetery, $75,000 for the Underground Railroad Center, and $30,000 for improvements at Wright Memorial Park.


The city’s Sustainable Reserve Program provides funding for municipal electric services, programs, and projects demonstrating energy efficiency, energy conservation, greenhouse gas emission reductions, or the development of renewable resources.

The program is funded with net proceeds obtained from the sale of Renewable Energy Credits procured through long-term power supply contracts.

But use of the credits and the amount of credit money rebated to customers by city council members has caused controversy.

On the ballot, residents can vote yes to amend the ordinance, requiring any expenditure over $50,000 to be subject to further city council authorization.

By law, funds may only be used for services with environmental, social, and economic benefits reasonably related to the Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System operation.


In an attempt to finally solve the disagreement over REC sales, residents can vote yes to approve the creation of a Community Choice Program that would allow electric ratepayers to either donate their share to the city or not.

The credits are pollution offsets which OMLPS has sold on the open market. By the end of 2016, $2.6 million in revenue had been generated from the sale.

Over the past year, the issue has been a highly disputed one in Oberlin, with some residents in favor of giving the $2.6 million back to ratepayers in the form of rebates, while others want to use the REC funds to further the city’s use of renewable energy sources.

Staff Report