Cortland plans fees increase for road repairs

CORTLAND — To help pay for road resurfacing, the city of Cortland plans to raise license plate fees by $5, according to Service Director Donald Wittman.

Council unanimously voted to place the legislation into first reading on Monday. If passed after two more required readings, the increase would raise the license plate tax for vehicles registered or renewed in Cortland to $15, adding $5 to the $10 in taxes already in place. The increase would go into effect Jan. 1.

The fee is necessary to help the city pay for its road resurfacing program, which began in 2004, according to Wittman.

“Every dollar goes toward resurfacing roadways,” Wittman said.

Historically, the city used money from the general fund to maintain the road resurfacing program, which aimed to have every street resurfaced on a 10-to-15-year cycle. However, in 2014, the Local Government Fund was reduced and the inheritance tax was abolished, costing the city upwards of $250,000 a year since then.

For the past 10 years, the city spent approximately $300,000 annually on road resurfacing. Following the reductions, the amount was scaled back to roughly $160,000 to $180,000, Wittman said.

“The roads aren’t in bad shape but if we don’t fix the funding gap, we’re going to be back to where we were with road conditions before we implemented the aggressive resurfacing program,” Wittman said.

The additional $5 fee would generate an additional $37,500 in revenue for the Permissive Tax Fund, which will raise $112,500 total annually. The last license plate tax increase was in October 2015 when it was increased to $10. The ceiling for license plate taxes throughout the state of Ohio is $20, according Wittman.

City Council also held an emergency vote allowing Mayor James Woofter to enter into an agreement with the Ohio Auditor’s Uniform Accounting Network Software to replace their old software.

Since the auditor’s computer was updated to Windows 10, it is no longer compatible with the old accounting software, Governmental Systems. The old software is used for budgeting and payroll, with the last update in 2008.

“The software we’re using right now is very outdated,” Finance Director Patti Gibson said. “The newer software will have better efficiency to serve the public better.”

The update will only cost the city $1,500 more than what it is paying now, with employees going to Columbus for budgetary training in June and payroll training sometime in the fall. By the end of the year, the city expects to be completely converted to the new software. The state also will provide a new computer and printer, according Gibson.

In other business, City Council passed a second reading of an ordinance that would approve funding for SCOPE Inc. to support their services at the Cortland Senior Center. The ordinance is part of Cortland’s normal SCOPE funding, which amounts to roughly $9,900 annually, according to Woofter.