Great Article on the Income Tax Increase Proposal from Olentangy Valley News

Olentangy Valley News 

City leader takes stand against tax increase

Councilwoman, others form group to oppose city income tax increase on Nov. 2 ballot

 

By LAURA ENGLEHART
Published: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 6:13 PM EDT

Powell will ask residents Nov. 2 for an income tax increase — but a City Council member is leading the charge against it.

At its July 20 meeting, Powell City Council voted 6-1 to request from voters a change in the income tax rate from 0.75 percent to 1.5 percent.

Residents would receive a 1 percent credit for income taxes paid to other municipalities. Revenue generated would go toward capital improvements for 10 years.

“Our current tax structure has gotten us this far and it will only continue to get us to maintain our current operating expenses,” said Councilman Don Grubbs. “We don’t have enough money for capital improvements — repairing failing sewers and old roads. Those repairs will be needed.”

The income tax hike would bring in an additional $2.2 million a year for capital improvements.

Councilwoman Sara Marie Brenner voted against the ballot measure, as well as the credit to residents who work out of town and earmarking funds for capital improvement projects.

“I do believe the city needs funds, and I’m not trying to prevent funds from coming into the city,” Brenner said. “We have things that need fixed and we can’t expect the city to last forever on what it has.

“But we cannot create a tax that is permanent with no accountability and that doesn’t give the people paying to be able to say what it goes toward,” she said.

Sixty-two percent of residents work out of town and would pay no more in income taxes if the issue passes. Fifty percent of revenue generated would come from taxpayers who work in the city but live in other communities, city officials have said.

The 38 percent of residents who live and work in Powell would pay more in income taxes.

Brenner said she considers an income tax increase an attack on small businesses.

“This is a small-business tax, and it unfairly taxes a certain part of the community,” Brenner said after last week’s meeting.

Though she stands as the only council member against the ballot measure, Brenner said she is not discouraged in her opinion.

“I’m the only small-business owner (on council), and just as (council members) are standing up for what they think is right, so am I,” Brenner said.

Brenner opened Prestige Music Studios Inc. in Powell four years ago.

She and other residents have organized Friends of Powell, a campaign against raising the income tax. Its website has swelled to more than 100 members in less than a week.

Grubbs said after last week’s meeting that he welcomes any debate on the ballot issue.

“I’m interested to see what (Friends of Powell) has to say, and I’ll speak up if I think it’s not factual, but in terms of drawing a conclusion, that’s up to everyone (as individuals),” he said.

Grubbs was against an income tax increase a few years ago when council members began their research, but switched camps after many conversations were held the topic, he said.

City Council has promised to dedicate any new income tax revenue toward capital improvements for a decade. Some residents who have attended recent council meetings have said the 10-year limit allows the city to use the money in any way it sees fit in the future, without a vote of residents.

That does not worry Grubbs, however.

“It does put the spending in the hands of future councils, but I’m not worried about council members going amuck (with spending), because of the strength of people like (Brenner) and those that come to (council) meetings,” Grubbs said.

“They will make sure that council is spending the money wisely. I’ve always been confident that prior councils have done the right thing.”

Meanwhile, Friends of Powell held its first meeting Sunday, July 25. It appointed resident Tom Kipfer as treasurer and made plans to distribute information by mail and by knocking on doors.

For more information on the income tax increase issue, visit Powell’s website, cityofpowell.us. For more information on Friends of Powell, visit the website powellcitycouncil.info and register as a member.

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