SHEFFIELD LAKE — Due to confusion over where his new polling place was, Homer Browning said he had to go to three locations before voting Tuesday.
Despite the hassle, Browning said he was determined to vote.
“I told the wife, ‘Hey, I’ve got to exercise my constitutional right because people are dying around the world for the right to vote,” Browning said.
Browning said he was also determined to vote for Issue 23, a 0.5 percent permanent income tax increase. The tax passed with 1,061 voters, or about 63 percent, voting yes and 629, or 37 percent, voting no, according to unofficial returns from the Lorain County Board of Elections.
The tax will raise about $500,000 annually and cost a worker earning $50,000 annually, an additional $250 yearly.
Browning, a 70-year-old General Motors Co., autoworker, said he won’t have to pay the tax, which only affects workers. Browning said he was reluctant to support increasing taxes on others, but said he was concerned a lack of fire and police protection would lead to his homeowner’s insurance rates increasing.
“Most of the time, I’m pretty well against taxes,” he said. “But I don’t want to be the guy that takes the city down the tubes.”
Fire Chief Tim Card said the tax will cover hiring two new firefighters in June or July for the 11-member department. It will also pay for replacing a firefighter retiring in June and another retiring in December.
If the levy failed, the department might have had as few as two firefighters on some shifts. The National Fire Protection Association recommends a minimum of four firefighters per shift.
Passage will also allow the Police Department — which has six full-time officers about eight part-timers, three full-time dispatchers and three part-timers – to fill positions when employees depart.
In November, the levy failed by just 16 votes. Mayor Dennis Bring said the defeat was demoralizing for city officials who oversee a $3 million annual budget for about 9,300 residents.
Sheffield Lake has lost about $2.5 million in state taxpayer aid to local governments since 2009. Hiring and pay freezes have been in effect for the city since 2009, and 15 positions were eliminated through attrition since then.
Bring credited firefighters and members of Citizens for a Safer Sheffield Lake, the levy committee, for raising public awareness. The committee spent about $4,000 on mailers, signs and automated phone calls promoting the tax, according to firefighter and committee member Scott Kozlowski. Firefighters also went door to door.
“We have so many supportive residents in our community. It’s amazing,” said Kozlowski, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2355, the firefighters union. “You just have to get to them.”