MACEDONIA — At a special meeting Wednesday, Aug. 1, City Council approved sending an income tax increase request and a final city charter amendment to voters on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
It will be the second time this year voters are being asked to approve a 0.25 percent increase in the city income tax. If approved by voters, the city’s tax rate would be 2.5 percent, and the added money will be used for the fire, police and service departments.
The ballot issue had to be submitted to the Summit County Board of Elections by Aug. 8. A similar tax hike issue failed by 174 votes at the May 8 primary election.
The increase would generate $1.2 million to $1.4 million per year, according to Finance Director Rhonda Hall, who noted residents can apply for a 0.25 percent refund — a stipulation when voters passed a 0.25 percent increase in 2017 to resurface roads.
Mayor Nick Molnar said at a recent work session on city finances that if all city officials get out and work hard to pass the income tax increase, he is confident voters will respond positively.
"We need to stress the seriousness of the situation," he said. "We’re not making any threats; we have to get the point across that with rising costs and the loss of a lot of state money in recent years, the city needs additional money to operate.
"We desperately need this money. Although we constantly seek state and federal funds for projects, that just isn’t enough to allow the city to provide services that residents want."
Councilman Kevin Bilkie echoed Molnar’s sentiments about the need for additional funds. He said city officials will lay out exactly what the money will be used for, "and we hope residents will educate themselves about the need."
Councilwoman Jessica Brandt said although much has been written and said about the need for money for a new fire department ladder truck, police cars and other equipment, "the residents shouldn’t forget that money also is needed for personnel. We can’t keep scraping the bottom of the barrel for funds all the time."
Previous Mayor Joseph Migliorini has said wages paid to city workers are not comparable with many surrounding communities, and the city hasn’t granted raises recently.
"People come here to work and then leave after a while because they can get more money elsewhere," he said.
The city will have a 1-mill levy for the fire department expiring at the end of the year, and a renewal will not appear on the fall ballot, making it that much more important for voters to approve the income tax hike, officials have stressed.
Hall said the fire levy brings in $400,000 a year, and that money will be lost if the income tax issue fails in the fall. Some Council members have said if the income tax fails, a fire levy could be tried next May or November, but Hall noted that would mean residents would lose the property tax rollback.
Hall also reminded residents that senior citizens and those on fixed incomes won’t pay the increased income tax, and their real estate taxes will be lowered when the 1-mill fire levy goes off the books.
Meanwhile, the final charter amendment approved for the ballot focuses on the conduct of Council members. It outlines procedures for possible censure and removal of members for gross misconduct or malfeasance in office.
Three other charter changes previously were approved for the ballot by Council reps.
One would allow the mayor to break a tie vote any time Council deadlocks on an issues, another would allow the mayor to serve as a non-voting member of the planning commission and the third would eliminate Council rom the task of confirming the mayor’s removal of a department head.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 Ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org