City council hold planning retreat

Amanda Stanley

Admission tax, city property and bridges at the top of council’s agenda

In an volatile Kent City Council meeting last night, council members struggled with ways to increase the cash flow for the city while refraining from asking residents for more income tax money.

One idea, proposed by councilman Ed Bargerstock, was a “head tax” on Kent State students.

“Our biggest asset is also our biggest burden,” Bargerstock said. “Why not tax the students who do not contribute to the city in order to generate revenue?”

Other members appeared shocked at the proposal.

Councilman Garret Ferrara, who is vice chairman of the finance committee, expressed his disapproval.

“It is ludicrous to even explore that kind of tax,” Ferrara said.

Bargerstock rationalized the tax by saying students are currently not paying the city taxes and “wouldn’t mind” contributing to the city with the proposed tax. He also said this way, those who are already being taxed will not feel the burden of a new tax.

Also discussed was an “admissions tax.”

Councilwoman Beth Oswitch noted that the admissions tax would not only affect students, but also those wishing to purchase tickets to sporting events and theater performances.

Bargerstock also discussed the need for the city to sell any non-productive property in order to create revenue.

“The continued holding of non-essential and non-performing real estate assets poses additional revenue drains on our budget,” he said.

Bargerstock said that since 1990 there has been no real estate development and no return. He said the city was going on a “spending spree” and there is need for “structural organizational change.” Bargerstock was met with conflicting opinions from the rest of council.

Councilwoman Carrie Gavriloff said keeping those structures and attracting businesses to them may attract more developers to the city.

Ferrara said the properties could be used as a leverage and provide potential revenue in the future.

“If you’re trying to achieve economic development, you need property to work with,” he said.

He also said this might mean not having a return on the property for several years.

Bargerstock also stressed the importance of an annual city budget that matches the project expenses and revenues. He said it is the job of the city manager, not of city council, to propose the budget.

“The administration should present the budget,” Bargerstock said. “It is the job of council to act as a checks-and-balances system and to debate the expenses.”

Council voted on an agreement to ask legislators from the area to look into the possibility of the state providing more money for Kent due to its status as a state university city.

Council also passed a motion to bring the issue of the Crain Avenue bridge back on the table for committee discussion.

Contact public affairs reporter Amanda Stanley at [email protected].