Jackson city voters had their say on a proposed city income tax in last week's primary election, but now Jackson City Council is getting another opportunity to vote on it.
At their meeting on Monday night, May 14, council was presented with a proposed ordinance to impose the same one per cent city income tax on its own. However, it appears that important decision may be made at a special council meeting next week.
If approved, the new income-tax funding would all go to the Jackson Police Department and would become its main source of funding. This revenue would basically replace the $1.2 million a year in utility funds that the city can no longer allocate to the police department as a result of a state-audit finding issued last year.
Budget cuts and job reductions are expected to be made regardless of what happens with the income-tax proposal, but they would have to be much greater if the city went forward without the additional revenue. The majority of the position cuts would come in the police department which is most affected by the loss of the utility allocations.
The ordinance is being considered less than a week after 58 percent of the city's voters rejected the income tax in the May 8 primary election. A 1 percent city income tax proposal - this one for infrastructure improvements and repairs - was also defeated by the city electorate in the 2016 general election.
While council's decision will be a hugely important one, it will likely not be made until a special council meeting is conducted on Tuesday evening, May 22. At Monday night's meeting, council lacked the six required votes to suspend the rules and skip the normal three readings and vote on the income-tax ordinance immediately as an emergency measure. Councilmen Jon Ondera, George Kitchen, Butch Aldrich, Jeff Elliott and Brett Foster all voted in favor of an immediate emergency vote while Councilmen Jon Hensler and Ron Queen both voted against it.
Elliott, who is chairman of the council Budget/Finance Committee, had urged council to act immediately on the ordinance so city officials would "know what we have to do."
Mayor Randy Heath later called for special council meetings to be held at 8 p.m. on the consecutive evenings of Monday, May 21 and Tuesday, May 22, to take the second and third readings of the income-tax ordinance. The decisive vote is expected to be made after the third and final reading during the May 22 meeting.
Mayor Heath spoke in favor of the income-tax ordinance and emphasized that Jackson is one of the few cities in the state without an income tax and warned of the negative impacts in the city and county if there is a major reduction in the number of police officers. Jackson resident John Peters provided a counter-point, submitting that the voters have twice turned down an income tax and that the city has spent too much in the past and failed to take steps to reduce costs.
Heath began his remarks by stating the council's upcoming decision "might be the most important ordinance this council has ever considered."
One of the points he made was that only 18.2 percent of the city's registered voters cast ballots in the primary election and that council should consider all the residents, including the future of those who were too young to vote. He also noted that the administration has made successful efforts to cut spending and had actually already cut three positions this year through attrition. He also repeated his statewide comparison argument, noting that of the 247 cities in Ohio, only four do not have an income tax and that three of those have a property tax which supports their police departments.
Heath also warned that major reductions in the police department would compromise public safety and that this would also affect the county as Jackson Police would have to call for backup support from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office in some situations. If law enforcement services are curtailed, the mayor also feels there could be a negative ripple effect with existing businesses and on future economic development.
While he acknowledges that nobody wants to pay an income tax, he contended the investment would be worth it.
"I would love to leave Jackson for our future generations a better city than when I became mayor, and not a struggling shell of what we know it can be," Heath stated. "And I don't really consider it a hope, but a responsibility for all of us."
Peters began his remarks by branding city leaders as the "more money administration" and the "more money council." He once again criticized the practice of using the city's utility funds for operations in the general fund.
"How many times do we have to vote down the income tax"? Peters asked. "How many times do we have to say no? The voters spoke not more than a week ago. We have to look at reducing costs in our police department as well the other departments."
He also took issue with the mayor's economic argument and declared that imposing an income tax would harm small businesses and the low-wage employees who would have to pay it.
Posted: Friday, May 18, 2018
Article comment by:
SMSgt Carl Corvin
Given that city council and county council is totally Republican dominated- one would think they would cut taxes to increase revenue. That is the neo-conservative mantra-- cut taxes and increase spending. Then blame someone else!
Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2018
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The mayor needs to follow the will of "We the people"! We voted twice on this. Does he want it to fail by a much bigger margin with even more people voting?