Lawmaker wants to improve street lighting in the state

2018-02-09 | Columbus Daily Reporter

When it comes to street lighting and illuminating public spaces, a southeast Ohio lawmaker reckons that this feature of urban planning typically gets short shrift relative to other public infrastructure needs.

The problem with the status quo, Nelsonville Republican Rep. Jay Edwards said, is that street lighting is funded by the same General Revenue funding that pays for other infrastructure needs.

Edwards has proposed legislation that would authorize a property tax levy specifically to fund lighting for roads and public places.

House Bill 470 would allow Ohio political subdivisions to levy a property tax in excess of the 10-mill limitation solely to provide funding for the installation, operation, and maintenance of public lighting.

Ohio Legislative Service Commission analysis of the bill noted that any levy must be approved by the voters of the subdivision, and may be levied for a term of up to five years.

Under current law, a county, township or municipality generally pays for lighting from its general fund.

Townships and municipal corporations already may levy a special assessment on property to fund lighting projects, the commission noted. Allocation, however, is based upon the benefit to each property.

"Political subdivisions under current law generally cover the cost of lighting with their general revenue fund," Edwards told fellow House members seated for the State and Local Government Committee's first hearing of the bill. "This legislation would allow these jurisdictions to levy a property tax that will appear on the ballot before voters.

"That is all I am seeking with this bill. Giving political subdivisions the opportunity to levy this property tax could free up money in their general funds for need-based services while keeping the decision-making controlled locally."

The lawmaker said proper and sufficient public lighting has a far greater impact than many may recognize.

"The effective planning of street lighting or ineffective planning of street lighting can affect a community for decades," he said. "It is in my opinion a part of city infrastructure and planning that is overlooked and under considered.

"Without proper planning poor street lighting will negatively impact our businesses and tourism. More importantly street lighting affects crime rates and automobile accidents, ultimately leading to greater strain on our first responders and their budgets.

He cited research that suggested that the lighting in community and public spaces tends to make people feel better and safer.

"It also suggests that with technological advancements the issue of light pollution and energy efficiency are no longer a major concern," Edwards added.

He concluded that the goal of HB 470 is to provide communities throughout the Buckeye State the tools necessary to be fiscally responsible, while keeping their public spaces attractive and safe.

Edwards Introduced the bill last month.

A second hearing of HB 470 had not been scheduled at the time of publication.