Matt Miller

Ashland Mayor Matt Miller speaks at a city council meeting July 2, 2019. 

ASHLAND - The city of Ashland is planning to accelerate its street paving plan, thanks to additional revenue coming from the state's recent gas tax increase.

The 10.5 cents per gallon gas tax increase approved by Ohio lawmakers earlier this year took effect July 1.

Ashland stands to gain an estimated $480,000 to $500,000 annually from the increase, mayor Matt Miller announced at a city council meeting Tuesday.

"That's a half a million dollars more of paving. It's a half million more dollars of streets each year.," Miller said. 

Just last month, Miller said the city may not be able to complete its full paving plan for 2019 due to higher-than-expected paving costs. Now, Miller said, city officials hope to pave not only the streets they originally planned to pave this year but also several more. 

"During that debate that was taking place in the state legislature, you heard lots of conversation about how much of that money would go to the state and how much would go to localities," Miller said. "For anyone paying attention to that discussion, look at the difference that will make to this city."

Also at Tuesday's meeting, council members approved $3.3 million for a phosphorus optimization and sludge dewatering project at the city's water treatment plant. 

The money for the project will come from the wastewater enterprise fund, which is generated by the fees the city collects for water treatment. Speaking on behalf of city utilities director Mike Hunter, who was unable to attend the meeting, city engineer Shane Kremser said the department has been budgeting for the project for years.

What prompted the project, according to Kremser, was an EPA regulation change that limits the amount of phosphorus that can be present in the city's water. To comply with the regulation, the city must use a chemical coagulant that increases the amount of sludge produced by the treatment plant. Completed by Simonson Construction, the new construction project will create a place to store the additional sludge. 

In other business, the council approved the purchase of a $43,000 dump truck for the city arborist. The truck will replace a 1976 truck the arborist has been using for decades. 

Council members also approved a $10,350 contract modification with Richland Engineering for the previously-approved Cleveland Avenue bridge project. 

The council adopted a 2020 tax budget prepared by city finance director Larry Paxton.

The tax budget is an early estimate of the city's anticipated revenues and expenses for the year and is generated in order to demonstrate to the county auditor that the city needs to collect the taxes it plans to collect. Unlike appropriations, which come later in the budgeting process, the tax budget is created by the finance director based on prior spending and does not include requests from department heads considering changing needs of various departments.

The budget shows the city beginning the year with a total of $21.8 million in all funds, bringing in $57 million, spending $71.5 million and ending the year with $7.3 million.

Though the tax budget shows a general fund deficit of about $532,000 by the end of 2020, Paxton said the city must-- and will-- have a balanced budget in all funds. The city expects to carry over $1.2 million in the general fund from 2019 to 2020.