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State capital improvements issue on ballot

4/24/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

GREATER AKRON — Voters across the state will be asked to weigh in on continuing a program to fund public infrastructure improvements in the May 6 Primary Election.

The only statewide issue on the ballot is Issue No. 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved, would permit the issuance of general obligation bonds to finance capital improvements for local governments and other governmental entities. Projects would be limited to roads and bridges, waste water treatment systems, water supply systems, solid waste disposal facilities, and storm water and sanitary collection, storage and treatment facilities.

Issue No. 1 authorizes $1.875 billion in infrastructure aid for local governments — $175 million a year for the first five years, then $200 million a year for the next five years, according to www.strong-ohio.com, the website promoting the issue. All counties would benefit from the program.

A fact sheet from Strong Ohio Communities stated 35,000 jobs could result from the program in the coming years.

Summit County Councilman Nick Kostandaras (D-District 1), who is president this year of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, said he has been contacting government officials throughout the area to encourage them to support the issue.

“I’m always talking to people about this and so far everyone I’ve called is in favor of it,” he said. “I’m very excited about it. I think this is the best thing we can do to bring jobs. How can you say no to something like this?”

The issue also got broad bipartisan support, passing in the Ohio Senate (31-0) and House (90-2) earlier this year.

Kostandaras said it’s also important to note that the issue is not a tax.

“This is not going to cost taxpayers anything,” he said. “It’s obligated bonds.”

According to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, the Ohio Constitution currently contains a provision authorizing the state to issue bonds to finance public infrastructure capital improvements through the State Capital Improvements Program, or SCIP. The program was first approved by voters in 1987 and was renewed in 1995 and 2005. The current ballot issue would reauthorize issuance of those bonds.

Since its inception, the program has provided funding for more than 11,500 public projects in Ohio.

Summit County Council adopted a resolution of support for Issue No. 1 during its March 31 meeting. During a presentation on the issue by County Executive Russ Pry, he said that more than $30 million has been dispersed throughout Summit County over the past three years. According to the resolution, more than $185 million has been put to use in the county since 1987 from the program.

Council learned that state capital improvement project money has gone toward, for example, replacing a waterline on South Cleveland-Massillon Road in Norton in 2010  by providing a $663,700 grant, about half of the funding for that project; and a $1.3 million grant and matching loan in 2012 to help fund a $10 million Mill Street bridge reconstruction in Downtown Akron.

For more information, go to the www.strong-ohio.com website. A complete list of projects funded through the program can be found at www.pwc.state.oh.us/AssistanceHistory.html.

More information about Issue No. 1 is available on the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office’s website at http://bit.ly/1ldVtr4.

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