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home : local news : local news
May 24, 2018

5/11/2018 3:54:00 PM
Jackson income tax fails: What's next?
For the second time in 18 months, voters in the City of Jackson have said no to the prospect of enacting a 1 percent city income tax.

In Tuesday's primary election, voters turned down a proposed 1 percent income tax with 679 voting no and 486 voting yes, which amounted to a 58-percent rejection rate. The tax issue was officially an "advisory" issue, which means that even if it was approved by voters, council would have to take action on its own to enact the income tax. Council also has the authority to impose the tax on its own.

The new revenue would have been used to provide new funding for the police department and would have basically replaced the $1.2 million a year the city is no longer allowed to allocate from its utility funds as a result of a state-audit finding issued last year.

Although there was no organized campaign to pass the income tax, this issued actually fared better than a 1 percent income tax proposal did in the November 2016 election when 63 percent of the voters said no. However, that was prior to the state-audit finding and the money would have been designated mainly for infrastructure improvements.

Council voted to put the latest income tax issue on the ballot after an attempt to impose the same tax was effectively derailed by a referendum petition. Last December, a badly divided council voted to impose the income tax last fall by a 4-3 vote, but a subsequent referendum petition appeared to have enough signatures to stop the imposition and place the income tax on the ballot. Council opted instead to pull back the income tax imposition and later voted to place it on the primary-election ballot.

Late this year, Jackson Mayor Randy Heath warned city council that major layoffs would impact the police department without additional revenue for the General Fund. In late January, Service/Safety Director Bill Sheward reported that 17 General Fund positions would need to be eliminated, including 13 in the police department. City Auditor Brett Reed stated he felt layoffs would be necessary even if an income tax was passed.

However, those layoffs have never been ordered as several councilmen worked toward developing a severance incentive plan; which could lead to a number of more senior employees in the police department retiring, and with positions being eliminated by attrition rather than by layoffs. However, city leaders ultimately decided to await the results of the primary election before making any final decisions on staffing.

City leaders will most certainly address the financial/staffing situation at council's next regular meeting this Monday evening, May 14.

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2018
Article comment by: Doug Reed

If the Police Department wasn't over-paid, there would be no issue. Only because Service Director Sheward doesn't know how to negotiate, the Union bowled him over and convinced him to over-pay the officers. NOW, there is a crisis? Repeal the pay raises for the Mayor and Service Director until they know what they are doing!

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