The village of Brice is a mouse amid a herd of municipal elephants and by potentially increasing its income tax, administrators hope to keep the village alive despite being landlocked by Columbus.
Brice Clerk-Treasurer Sandy Welling said the tiny village’s income tax of one percent is not enough to cover the growing cost of expenses, especially with the demise of revenue from mayor’s court, which ended a year and a half ago.
Brice’s annual budget, according to Welling, is approximately $130,000. Income tax brings in $40,000 to $45,000 with the balance of revenue derived from the county and the state. If the proposed tax issue to raise the village’s income tax from one to two percent is approved by voters on Nov. 6, village coffers would collect double what is now taken in on an annual basis.
"The income tax has been one percent forever," stated Welling, "and affects basically the businesses along Brice Road, a few people who own their own business, and 13 village workers. At least 25 percent of our budget is for the police department and our costs for everything keep going up. Our insurance went from $6,800 seven years ago when I first started up to $9,400 and everybody knows how much gas has gone up. Our printing costs per month went from $45 up to $89. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but even the small stuff is doubling in price and work on the village hall hasn’t been touched in years."
Welling said village revenue kept going down, even as costs continued to rise, but Brice-founded in 1880-hit a critical point when mayor’s court was abolished and the village lost a source of more than $25,000 in revenue. Fines helped offset the cost of running the police department and the village contracted with a magistrate to conduct the legal proceedings starting in 2003.
"We’re small, and the money coming in from mayor’s court helped. We were making it, but eventually it would have caught up with us," continued Welling. "There was a mix-up in the 2000 census and they severely undercounted us. We have over 100 residents, but the census said we only have 70. We had to stop holding mayor’s court, since it was taken away from us because of the census. Even before then our budget was really taking a hit and the loss of mayor’s court was just the icing on the cake. Our solicitor said just about every community is at a two percent income tax and that is what we’re asking for."
Welling said a town meeting was held to discuss the situation and the proposed increase in income tax.
"I asked everyone if their own bills have gone up and told them the same thing is happening to the village and we’re making less money," Welling remarked. "The people are supportive. We’re not planning on going out and doing anything fancy. This is just to help us get by; but if we don’t get this, we won’t be a village. All we want to do is keep our village."