Vote NO On the 100% Increase in the City of Powell’s Income Tax!

Over the past few months, I have not only seen the polling but also heard from many residents – Powell citizens do not want an income tax increase. Yet, my other six friends on Council voted to send a measure to the ballot on November 2 that will double our City income taxes. This is not necessary, and there are other solutions.

Please review the myths and facts below, and share this information with your friends by forwarding this text or link (http://saramariebrenner.blogspot.com/2010/09/vote-no-on-100-increase-in-city-of.html) on to your friends. If you have questions, please feel free to email me at Sara@SaraMarieBrenner.com or call me at 740.917.0009. I will be happy to answer your questions or hear your feedback, whether you agree, disagree or just have questions. After this fails, we will all need to work together to go back to the drawing board to get this done promptly in a way that is fair to all residents, and that is temporary, targeted and transparent.

For all of these reasons below, vote NO on the ballot measure to double the City’s income tax! Be sure you vote, and vote absentee starting September 28 if you will not be able to vote on November 2. The City will provide you with information and sell this to you as a must-have tax that is dedicated toward capital improvements and fair to all residents. You can see here, that is not the whole story...

MYTH: This income tax increase is tied to capital improvements.
FACT: This income tax increase is permanent. The only thing that temporarily binds these funds to capital improvements is an ordinance Council passed to do so for only 10 years. This ordinance can be reversed by a vote of Council.

MYTH: This income tax increase will not be used for general operations and is dedicated for capital improvements.
FACT: Even the ballot language refers to “general operations,” and since the ordinance passed by Council is only for years 1-10, from year 11 on it certainly can be used for general operations. Of course, that could happen before or after year 11, depending on what Council does in the meantime. That just adds to the unknowns here. If the Statehouse cuts local government funding next year as the rumor has it, Powell will lose nearly $300,000. Where are they going to make up that difference? From funds from a newly passed income tax increase, perhaps? And, what if other cities abolish their credit system suddenly so that they could maintain their revenue? Powell’s income tax proposal is reliant upon the status quo, and we all know that the $8 billion budget deficit next year will not allow status quo to continue. Proposals like those mentioned here may be implemented, so then what? For those of us who wanted this to be tied to capital improvements, this proposal definitely does not satisfy that requirement.

MYTH: Powell’s budget does not have any “fat” to cut.
FACT: One example is the building department. In 2002 they performed over 8,000 inspections. In 2010 this will perform approximately 1700 inspections by the end of the year. Yet, that department’s budget continues to increase. Why? In addition, staff was given a raise for 2010 when private sector companies were cutting jobs, cutting salaries, forcing their employees to take furlow days and taking other drastic measures. Your City was not doing that. Why not? Jobs have been vacated, and instead of leaving them vacant, they were filled. These were administrative positions, not police. There are more examples like this where money is being wasted every day. Furthermore, other Council members have expressed in open session that they do not support cutting spending within the City because it does not pay for the capital improvements needed. I am not sure that is accurate, first of all, but even if it is, do you continue growing government instead? This is not a sensible rationale. Cut first, then come back and see how much more money is needed and request it from voters in a responsible, accounting, temporary way (which is not what this income tax does).

MYTH: Powell’s employees are not well paid.
FACT: The City Manager is paid a salary well over 6 figures. Other department heads are paid anywhere from $60,000-$90,000 per year. Public employees are now earning 1.5 – 2 times the amount of those who do the same work in the private sector. Powell is no different! The City employees are well paid, plus they receive benefits on top of their salary. Employee’s salaries are public record which you may request from the City.

MYTH: This income tax proposal is the most fair way to pay for capital improvements.
FACT: Of course, this statement first of all assumes that you accept that the income tax increase is for capital improvements, which of course, it is not. Secondly, this tax proposal targets the small business owners in Powell who live and work in Powell. The other six Council members would not actually pay more in taxes. Do you appreciate that six people who would not pay more in taxes are asking some of you to pay more? That certainly isn’t right. This proposal will pin neighbor against neighbor with some paying more than others based on a complicated system of credits and locations. 

MYTH: We studied all the options, and this is the best solution.

FACT: I asked the City to study a proposal that I called “the basket approach.” In this approach, we would group together in “baskets” of proposals similar projects that would impact the entire City, and put them on the ballot. For example, bike paths – have a ballot measure that would fix, improve and further connect bike paths throughout the entire City so that everyone in the City would benefit from it. Or, to alleviate traffic, place several solutions on the ballot as a “basket” ballot measure so that the entire community would benefit if it were to pass. The City refused to study my proposal! My alternate proposal would be temporary, be targeted to specific projects, give residents control over what capital improvement projects the City complete, actually be dedicated to capital improvements, have a sunset and be short term rather than permanent, and not create a situation where some neighbors pay more than others. It should have been studied. Voting against the income tax increase on November 2 will force the City to go back to the drawing board and find a better solution. 

MYTH: Everyone else has a higher income tax – so should we.

FACT: We should be promoting that Powell only have a 0.75% income tax! Why don’t we? Draw business to Powell by using the fact that our taxes are low here. Just because our neighboring cities possibly over tax their residents and have bloated budgets does not mean we should too! 

MYTH: Now is as good a time as any to ask for a tax increase.

FACT: Really? When we now have 1 in 7 living in poverty nation wide, tens of millions of people identifying themselves as being against tax increases, and private sector employees losing their jobs, this is not the right time to be asking for tax increases. Government must learn that, just like our households, there is a budget that must be lived by and the City should live within its means. In addition, Olentangy Schools will be placing a levy on the ballot in May 2011, according to the local newspapers. Should it pass, when you calculate that, the other taxes that many of us will be paying next year due to federal and state income tax increases, and other increases in our financial obligations to the government, this could mean thousands of dollars more per year for a family in Powell. Some calculations show $5,000-$10,000 or more depending on income and home value. When we are still in a recession with vacancies in downtown Powell, families struggling and a City that isn’t cutting spending first, raising taxes is not the solution.

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