December 18, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
28°F
test

Elyria Council OKs income tax increase on Nov. ballot

ELYRIA — With little discussion, Council on Monday approved three resolutions and one ordinance in quick succession to place a 0.25 percent income tax increase before voters, touting the issue as necessary to infuse more than $3.5 million into the city’s struggling coffers.

The city has until 4 p.m. Wednesday to place issues on the November ballot.

“We don’t have the revenue to keep what we have, let alone offer any kind of increase in services,” said Brenda Davis, D-2nd Ward. “(Residents) want the Fire Department there when they need it. They want the Police Department there when they need it. They don’t want to hear they are not available for whatever reason.”

In exchange for increasing the current 1.75 income tax rate, the city proposes a $1.980 million plan for additional police officers and firefighters — a count Mayor Holly Brinda has set at 93 officers and 65 firefighters. The tax also would provide funds to purchase safety equipment in each department and road repairs. In the second year — it’s a proposed five-year tax — $80,000 would go to auxiliary police officers in the form of $3,000 stipends and a police academy scholarship program.

Once the documents are signed, they will be forwarded to the Lorain County Board of Elections for placement on the November ballot.

If passed, the tax would expire June 30, 2019.

Mark Craig, I-4th Ward, was the only councilman to vote against putting a measure before voters.

Councilman Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward, previously voted against the tax plan when it was presented in a Strategic Planning Committee meeting. He voted in favor of going to the voters Monday.

“I needed to see the legislation to see what we were going to put to the voters,” he said following the meeting. “I’m all for voters having their say on Election Day.”

If passed, the money the tax would generate would answer the longstanding question over staffing in the Fire Department. With 52 firefighters getting paid with city dollars and 23 positions falling under a federal grant, the city’s challenge has centered on how many firefighters the city could afford without the help of federal dollars.

That number will rise to 65, assuming the levy passes. Moving the 13 additional positions to the general fund would cost $1.1 million.

Brinda said the plan keeps three fire stations open daily and three fire personnel on each truck.

The number of 65 firefighters is supported by the state performance audit conducted in 2013 as well as the McGrath Fire Audit commissioned several years ago.

Four years ago, when the city last sought an income tax increase, it failed by less than 5 percentage points.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.