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Sunset Provision a Possibility for New Police Station

City administrators still reviewing options for addressing need to replace existing building

The need to replace Kent's aging police station hasn't gone away despite the defeat of Issue 11 in November.

Kent Safety Director William Lillich said city administrators are reviewing alternatives for replacing the building, which originally dates to 1924 and has experienced numerous structural and mechanical failures in recent years.

"Everything's up in the air at this point," Lillich said.

Issue 11 proposed a 0.25 percent income tax increase that would have repaid about $18.3 million worth of bonds issued to build a new police station. Kent voters denied the proposed tax increase with 5,490 votes cast against it and 4,486 votes for the increase — a 1,004 vote margin — according to final results from the Portage County Board of Elections.

One possible alternative for paying for a replacement police station could simply be to put the 0.25 percent income tax increase back on the ballot.

A second alternative would be to put the issue back on the ballot with the addition of some kind of sunset clause — a time limit for the income tax increase to eventually expire.

Lillich said that, in light of the city's finances, which have increasingly relied on reserve cash to balance the city budget, an income tax increase is the best means to pay for a new police station.

"I don’t know that we can stay in this building in perpetuity," he said. "City revenues keep getting tighter. We're to the point where there isn't much more to cut. We could cut more, but we won’t be able to provide the same level of services."

Whether or not a proposal to raise the income tax rate to pay for a new station goes back on the ballot depends on Kent City Council, whose members voted in August to put the issue on the November ballot.

Ward 2 Council Representative Garret Ferrara said he believes putting the issue back on the ballot with a time limit on the tax increase would improve its chances of passing.

He added that he wants city administrators to provide more concrete information about the proposed new station.

Ward 2 Council Representative Jack Amrhein said he voted for Issue 11 but is unsure how he feels about putting an income tax increase back on the ballot with a sunset provision.

"I think council needs to re-examine the issue," Amrhein said.

Ward 5 Council Representative Heidi Shaffer said she's open to a new idea and plans to listen to what other council members have to say when the issue comes back to the panel for discussion.

"We need a new police station," she said. "I am supportive of putting it on the ballot again, with or without a sunset clause."

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City administrators could possibly bring the issue back to council for talks, with a few options, as early as January 2013.

Lillich said part of that presentation to council and the community would include more detailed information from the city's architectural consultant on design and cost of the new building.

"We've got to keep (an income tax increase) on the table," he said. "One of the issues we heard during the campaign was 'Why don’t we get a bond issue?' That’s literally what we would do to get the money for the project. The drawback was we don’t have new revenue flow to pay that out of existing revenues. And that was the purpose of the levy ... to provide new revenue to pay off those bonds.

"We’re inclined to propose to the council less restrictions," Lillich said. "We think we need to talk about having some kind of an endpoint, whether that be in time or in paying off the debt."

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