City council, citizens discuss budget issues

Nate Ulrich

A panel of Kent citizens met with city council’s finance committee yesterday to present their recommendations on how to jumpstart the city’s struggling economy.

In its presentation, the group of citizens known as the Blue Ribbon panel said Kent’s current structural deficit is $1.5 million per year, and the city’s cash reserves of $8 million will be exhausted by 2008 or 2009.

The panel concluded that raising taxes is necessary in assisting the police and fire departments.

“If we read the citizens of Kent correctly, then no one wants a decrease in services,” said Brian Bialik, a member of the panel who works in Home Savings Bank’s commercial lending division. “No one wants to reduce the police force and other emergency services. Increasing taxes is the only way that I can see to address the near-term solutions.”

John Thornton, an associate professor in the college of business administration at Kent State, said the city would continue to suffer if citizens were to vote against a tax increase.

“The city of Kent is very close to a downward death spiral,” Thornton said. “If the public won’t support a tax, services will go down and that’s going to have a very negative impact on the city, and the revenue will continue to go down.”

The panel recommended that the tax-rate increase should have a sunset provision, which stipulates a tax reduction after the end of a seven-year period.

“Theoretically if the city engages in an effective economic strategy, seven years from now all of the jobs that we didn’t have now will exist and offset those tax increases,” Bialik said.

The panel said council’s decision to pass the Main Street program, a plan designed to bring new businesses to downtown Kent, is a step in the right direction.

“We will die as a city if we don’t address our challenges,” Bialik said. “Our recommendations are not a cure all, but they certainly do address key issuers that have been areas of concern.”

Contact public affairs reporter Nate Ulrich at [email protected].