MASON — Those receiving water bills from the Town of Mason will soon see a $2 increase, after council members cited a need for more money at their most recent meeting.
Present were Mayor Donna Dennis, Recorder Harley Stewart, and council members Marty Yeager, Sharon Kearns, Steve Ohlinger, Sarah Stover and Becky Pearson.
The council unanimously voted to have an ordinance drawn up that would establish a $2 municipal fee on every household receiving a water bill. Mayor Dennis expressed her opposition to the fee. The ordinance will be presented at the next meeting on Aug. 15, and will then have to be read three times prior to the fee going into effect.
Although no council member cited a particular shortfall of funds in any department, nor any measures being taken to curtail spending, they cited numerous times throughout the meeting that additional monies are needed in the town’s general fund. The town ended the fiscal year 2018/19 on June 30 with a carryover amount of $187,555.04.
Figures passed out at the meeting do show that the expenditures have exceeded the revenue taken in for the past four years, the most recent by $64,198. The town’s yearly revenue for 2018/19 was $458,523, while spending was $522,721.
The mayor opposed the fee, asking council to wait until April. She said one employee was moved from being paid from town funds, to being paid from the water department, saving approximately $25,000. She also cited the police department, which accounts for over half of the town budget, had $20,000 in leftover funds last year, and spent $30,000 in overtime pay that could be cut. Dennis also mentioned the anticipated additional revenue that will be generated through B&O taxes of new businesses, particularly Ohio Valley Bank and American Spirits liquor store.
In the end, however, council passed the fee upon motion by Yeager and second by Ohlinger. Yeager said he did not want to wait until April to find out where the town stands, and does not want to jeopardize the recreational activities held at the park that people are accustomed to, including the Harvest Festival, Fourth of July, and Easter egg hunt, as well as recent playground upgrades.
The municipal fee is not the only measure being contemplated by the council. They are also discussing the possibility of a user fee, or excise tax, for all those who work in the town, and/or increases for sign and building permits, golf cart and ATV licenses, and B&O taxes. Another suggestion was using the recently formed “Municipal Home Rule” to institute a one percent tax on any taxable items purchased within the town.
In other action, the council:
Agreed to pay for two concerts at the park, including “Next Level” on Aug. 17 from 8 to 10 p.m., and a second band on Sept. 7, with a rain date of Sept. 21;
Announced the Mason Amusement Association will sell concessions at the Aug. 17 concert;
Heard the need for a generation for the water wells when the power is off;
Agreed to purchase 20 tons of gravel at approximately $500, to be used as needed;
Heard from Police Chief Colton McKinney that a “Click-It or Ticket” campaign will be held now through Aug. 17, with money provided through a grant;
Agreed to notify Wahama High School that the lot next to the baseball field, owned by the town, is now free of items from the recent wastewater upgrade project and can be prepped for parking;
Hired Scott Casto as an independent contractor, retroactive to July 22, for mowing and weeding at a rate of $9 per hour;
Heard a report that the Clifton water project is nearly completed;
Turned over the use of a parcel of land purchased by the town to the water department; and,
Reported a sign permit has been obtained by American Spirits.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.