TALLMADGE – Voters could decide in the fall election if the city income tax rate should be increased by one-quarter percent to maintain the city’s safety forces.
Council members gave a second reading June 13 to two proposals. One proposal would put the issue on the November ballot asking residents if they favor increasing the city’s income tax rate from 2% to 2.25% starting Jan. 1, 2020. Council will have a third reading on that proposal on June 27.
The second proposal would actually enact that income tax rate increase if it is approved by voters this fall. After a third reading is given to this proposal on June 27, Council is expected to table this legislation until after the November election, according to Director of Law Megan Raber.
Based on the results of the election, Council could adopt the ordinance and put it in place or reject it if residents vote against an increase, said Mayor David Kline.
"They can’t override the voters," Kline said.
The 0.25% increase, if approved, would raise an additional $1.4 million for the needs of the safety forces, Kline said. The money would come from taxable income from those who work in the city. Retired seniors would not be affected.
The increase in income tax dollars would go to the safety forces of police and fire, capital and manpower, Kline said. The funds would go toward acquiring land for a new Fire Station 2 and constructing the facility, estimated at $6 million to $6.5 million.
"The Fire Study Group said fire stations 1 and 2 have equal call times," Kline said. "They recommended a new station built near the proximity of the existing station."
Fire Station 2 would be near the existing facility located at 735 Eastwood Ave. Fire Station 1 is at 85 Overdale Drive.
In addition, the money would also be used to buy a new ladder truck — which would cost $1.1 million and replace one that is 25 years old. Additional funds would be used to make improvements to the two existing fire stations and police department needs.
"It’s never easy going to the taxpayers and asking for money," Kline said. "In this case, asking for an increase of 0.25% in the income tax, we have to ask for their approval."
The police and fire departments have had a 10-year history of cost increases, said Director of Finance Mollie Gilbride.
The overall budget has a 40 percent increase in calls and staffing with 3,000 calls this year and rising, Kline said. Each year the city has to transfer more money from its general fund to cover an operating deficit in the fire department. The fire department’s 2019 operating budget is $3.5 million with $1.46 million from the city’s General Fund.
"When we are in this situation, let the voters decide," said Dennis Loughry, Council at-large member. "I support this because of the process. Let voters decide how to proceed."
The city needs to improve and sustain the safety forces into the future and relieve the burden on the general fund, said Craig Sisak, Ward I Council member.
"We recognize all the services the police do, and we will see what the voters have to say come November," Sisak said.
Carol Kilway, Ward 4 Council member, said the tax increase was for the betterment of Tallmadge.
"It is necessary for the future and safety of Tallmadge," said Michael Carano, council at-large member. "A matter of minutes can matter whether someone lives or not."
The next scheduled council meeting is June 27 at 7:30 p.m. in council chambers, 46 North Ave. Council of the whole committee meeting begins at 7 p.m.
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or email@example.com