XENIA — The City of Xenia is hoping to address its declining streets by passing a new property tax levy Tuesday, Nov. 5.
If residents approve Issue 11, the 3.5-mill levy will generate $1.3 million annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home approximately $10.21 per month. By law, the money could only be used for the rehabilitation of roads, bridges, and transportation systems and the fund is fully audited.
The poor condition of the roads in Xenia is well-known throughout the city.
When Xenia residents passed a .5 percent income tax increase in 2010, the city promised to spend at least $500,000 annually on streets. Xenia has fulfilled that promise and has invested more than $6.8 million to rehabilitate 72 lane miles since 2011. The city will continue to spend $500,000 annually if the levy passes, making the total annual investment at least $1.8 million annually.
But that amount simply isn’t enough, according to city officials. Xenia has 281 lane miles and the average cost to improve one 11-foot wide lane is $116,000 per mile. If the city could write a check and get all the roads fixed immediately it would cost $37,500,000 as of 2014, according to city documents.
To help determine how to solve the issue, the city formed a blue ribbon panel to investigate and recommended the ballot issue.
“There was a reluctance on the part of the council to jump into a request for new money,” City Manager Brent Merriman said. “The decision wasn’t arrived at loosely or quickly.”
But Merriman said the city is not generating enough general capital money to tackle the issue. If the city spent money differently on other projects there would be some money freed up but still not enough, Merriman added.
Previous councils and administrations also faced lack of money, which is why the roads have consistently been neglected for 40 years, according to Merriman.
Xenia could have considered fixing the roads via debt service, but unlike the situation with the new administration building, a road is not an asset that would earn a good interest rate, Merriman said. Also, the city needs to have the ability to pay the debt back meaning it wouldn’t have been able to borrow the amount necessary to address all the roads.
“We just didn’t feel like that in the long run that made the most strategic sense,” Merriman said.
Some opponents of the city building said that money could have been used on roads, but Merriman said not all of what the city building costs would have been able to go to streets as a percentage is paid for through water and sewer funds.
If the levy fails, the city will continue to operate as it is now, investing the $500,000 annually, while seeking out grants and more economic growth to generate more money, Merriman said. He added that city will have to prioritize streets and reduce expenditures into other programs. But Merriman cautioned that the city can’t put all of its focus on roads as it still needs to invest in things like technology and parks and trails.
If the levy passes, the city hopes to begin the evaluation process in November or December and begin work in the spring.
There is no strategy yet as to what areas to fix first. Merriman said the city will update the pavement condition index rating and make a plan from that. He did say it’s more cost effective to concentrate on areas at a time, rather than hit a few streets in all parts. The city will also make sure roads with buried infrastructure are not resurfaced until the work underneath is complete.
One road already planned for repair in 2019 is Second Street, which will receive curb-t0-curb, full-depth replacement from downtown to Progress Drive.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.