MACEDONIA -- Even though two 0.25 percent income tax increase proposals were rejected by voters in November, Mayor Joe Migliorini is proposing a return to the ballot in May. This time, the city would ask voters to approve a permanent 0.5 percent income tax increase to be devoted solely to the city's roads.

If approved by voters in the May 2 primary election, the increase would bring in an additional $2 million a year to the city, according to Finance Director Rhonda Hall.

The city's income tax rate currently is 2 percent. When a 0.25 percent income tax that has been earmarked for the recreation center expires in July, the city's income tax rate would drop to 1.75 percent. If approved by voters, the 0.5 percent income tax increase would raise the city's income tax rate to 2.25 percent, Hall said.

The issue was on first reading at the Jan. 12 City Council meeting. It must be approved by Council and submitted to the Summit County Board of Elections by Feb. 1 at 4 p.m. to appear on the May 2 ballot.

Migliorini said Jan. 12 that raising the income tax rate for the city is essential because "if we don't do something, our community will fall apart."

"People will choose to move to other communities. I see no other way" other than raising the income tax rate, he said. "Council must be unified and support this."

Council President Nick Molnar said what Migliorini proposed "is probably not what we'll go with."

"I don't know which way it's going to go," he said. "We're trying to solve the money problem. There is a possibility we could do an income tax increase and a 100 percent credit, so it wouldn't cost the residents any extra money for anything over 2 percent. The reality is, the majority of income tax money is coming from businesses in town, anyway."

Councilor David Engle said he is not fond of the mayor's plan.

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and being surprised when the outcome is no different," he said. "We're immediately jumping right back in and doing the same thing," by proposing another income tax increase.

"I think the outcome will be the same. We need to sit down with the department heads and maybe do across-the-board cuts. We need to cut operating costs and learn to work together. Until we do those steps, I don't think the citizens will support a tax levy."

Councilor Sylvia Hanneken agreed, saying, "The mayor's proposal is just to do the same thing over. But we have the opportunity at the special finance committee meeting on Jan. 24 to look at all the options. We need to look outside the box."

The meeting is scheduled to take place at city hall at 6 p.m.

"It is difficult to have a dialogue about anything" on Council, she said. "I was hoping we could have a real discussion about the alternatives. The public needs to see a real plan, and so far, we have not done anything except say we need more money. We need to work together on a plan."

On the November general election ballot, Issue 18, a 10-year, 0.25 percent income tax increase for roads, failed with 3,774 votes against to 2,774 votes for, according to the Summit County Board of Elections, while Issue 19, a 20-year, 0.25 percent income tax renewal for recreation, also failed with 3,386 votes against to 3,206 votes for.

Migliorini said he initially considered asking for a 0.25 percent increase Jan. 12, but said he felt "that was short-sighted on my part."

Migliorini said he and Hall "went over the figures again. The picture is doom and gloom. A one-quarter of a percent increase does not solve our problem."

At the special finance committee meeting Jan. 10, Migliorini also discussed the roads.

"How are we going to get the money to fix the roads?" he said. "The bottom line is, you have roads that are reaching such deterioration. What do we do?"

He said city's roads are "falling apart" because the city needs to seal them after each winter.

"If you don't seal them, they start to deteriorate, and every winter they get worse," he said. "So we have to have a good maintenance program in place."

Mike Lesko: 330-541-9432

mlesko@recordpub.com

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