Summit County Council agreed on a new 2019 budget that does not include tax or fee increases.

The County Council also took action to restrict panhandling in some Summit County townships.

Council on Tuesday passed a $546.7 million general fund budget and also increased the outgoing 2018 budget. The adopted 2018 budget was increased by more than $10.3 million from its original $529.2 million figure to meet final projected expenditures for the year.

The 2019 budget does not call for new fee increases or higher taxes.

Council also approved legislation that will punish drivers who give money from their vehicles to roadside panhandlers in nine county townships.

Summit County’s new ordinance limits the ability of people to transfer anything from inside a vehicle to anyone outside who is within specified roadside rights of way, primarily if there is no sidewalk.

The first violation will be a fourth-degree misdemeanor, with subsequent violations rising in severity.

The new law says people cannot “engage in distribution” with the driver or occupant of a vehicle in the travel portion of a right of way, and that drivers and vehicle occupants cannot “engage in distribution” with people who are in travel portions of rights of way. The ordinance defines distribution as “an exchange or attempt to exchange a physical item between two or more individuals.”

The law provides an exception for people who are standing on a sidewalk under specific conditions.

Council earlier in the fall repealed a 5-year-old panhandling ordinance, saying it likely was unconstitutional.

The new ordinance was written to balance constitutional rights with pedestrian safety, said Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Ilene Shapiro.

The American Civil Liberties Union earlier in the year complained to the county government that the old panhandling ordinance appeared to be an unconstitutional violation of people’s First Amendment rights.

Council met Tuesday instead of its typical weekly Monday afternoon meeting because some council members attended a state and county government program Monday in Columbus. Council is now on its winter recess, with its next meeting Jan. 7.

This was John Schmidt’s last meeting as council president. The District 2 representative has been council president for two years. Council earlier this year placed term limits on the presidency.

 

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ