To deal with the safety services shortfall, several residents and city employees proposed raising the admissions tax and using new grant money to rehire recently laid-off police and firefighters. Greg Hall, a deputy from the Erie County Sheriff's office, advocated a raise in the admissions tax during Monday's city commission meeting. He said the city will need the extra safety services once Cedar Point opens. "Summer months in the city of Sandusky -- and I've lived here most of my life -- are chaotic with all the tourists who come here," Hall said. "If we don't bring these police officers and fire back, it's going to be more chaotic." Hall also pointed out the admissions tax hasn't been raised since 1972 and said a small increase in ticket prices wouldn't deter tourists. "Understand this: Cedar Point will not be paying this tax. It's the tourists who visit that pay this tax," Hall said. "So we're not robbing Big Brother over here who takes care of our city. People are not going to stop (taking) their vacations for 25 cents. They're not going to stop vacationing for 50 cents."
For decades, Cedar Point officials have decried an admissions-tax increase as a "targeted tax" because the park provides more than 99 percent of the city's admissions-tax revenues. But last year, park officials said they would not object to a 0.25 percent increase in the admissions tax if residents approved a 0.25 percent increase in the income tax. The residents rejected the income tax, so the admissions tax stayed the same at 3 percent.
Last week, ex officio mayor Dan Kaman said he wouldn't support an increase in the admissions tax because Cedar Point already provides about one-fourth of the city's revenues. But some commissioners think it's the right thing to do.
Last year, commissioner Julie Farrar said she supported an admissions tax increase regardless of whether residents approved an income tax increase. Farrar said Cedar Point should think of the tax increase as an investment in Sandusky's future. "We have to, as a community, come together and take care of our citizens," she said last fall. Multiple residents also suggested using new grant money to temporarily rehire several police officers or firefighters. The city learned this week it will receive $325,825 in grant funds for extending its aggregation agreement with FirstEnergy Solutions. "I for one would like to see that $325,000 used for our No. 1 priority, safety services" said Rob Pfanner, a Sandusky resident, referencing a statement made last week by interim city manager Don Icsman. Pfanner said if the city hired two police officers and two firefighters through the summer, the grant money would be well spent. Kaman said that was a short-term solution, because the city couldn't pay the police officers or firefighters once the grant funds expire.
Other commissioners suggested using the $325,000 to invest in energy efficiency to save the city future expenses. Commissioner John Hamilton suggested putting it toward windmills. Others said it could fund upgrades to make Sandusky City Hall more energy-efficient now that the city no longer intends to build a new administration building.