By Christine Bryant
If voters approve an income tax hike this spring to construct a YMCA community center in Reynoldsburg, residents likely will see that generated revenue benefit other areas of the city as well.
At a Nov. 9 town hall meeting, community members and city officials gathered at Reynoldsburg City Hall to discuss what the proposed income tax increase would mean for residents. During the past several months, YMCA and city officials have held a series of town hall meetings to discuss the possibility of constructing a community center at the site of the former pool off Davidson Drive.
Officials have said in order to do so, residents must vote to approve a 1-percent income tax increase that would fund the construction of the building. That measure likely will appear on the May 2017 ballot.
The Nov. 9 meeting focused on who the proposed tax increase would affect, as well as what benefits it would bring to Reynoldsburg residents.
How Reynoldsburg compares
The last time the city raised its income tax was in 1983, but not for a lack of trying. Voters have rejected all ballot initiatives, most recently in 2013.
This time officials and supporters of bringing a YMCA facility to the city are more hopeful and have been reaching out to residents to dispel any misconceptions of what a raise in income tax would mean.
Currently, Reynoldsburg’s income tax is 1.5 percent, lower than most other communities in Franklin County. By comparison, the cities of Reynoldsburg, Whitehall, Grandview, Worthington and Bexley all have a 2.5-percent income tax, while Westerville, Dublin, Hilliard, Upper Arlington, Grove City and Groveport have a 2-percent income tax.
The proposed 1-percent hike would raise Reynoldsburg’s to 2.5 percent and generate an additional $6.5 million a year, said Richard Harris, the city’s auditor.
About $1 million to $1.5 million of that revenue each year would go toward the cost of constructing the YMCA facility, with the remaining funds going toward filling some of the needs of the city’s departments, including police, parks and recreation, and streets.
Bill Sampson, director of public service, said the city is nearly $25 million behind in street repairs.
Harris said the amount of money the city is able to spend on services per resident is much lower than other cities in similar size as well. Comparing Reynoldsburg to Grove City, Gahanna and Hilliard – all of which do not have city-funded fire departments – Harris said Reynoldsburg spends $390 per resident, versus $828, $783 and $646, respectively.
“We are certainly proud we run a very tight ship,” he said.
However, due to drop in revenue from state funding, instances like the loss of Abercrombie and Fitch in 2002, and the failure of income tax increases on the ballot, areas of the city have suffered, including road conditions, Harris said.
How the tax impacts residents
The possibility of building a YMCA in town might sway voters differently. That’s why city officials are starting early at getting word out about who a proposed hike would affect and by how much.
Harris stressed the city’s income tax only taxes income such as rental properties and income for those who work in Reynoldsburg. It does not tax items such as social security payments, military pay and pension payments. Also not affected by an income tax increase are property taxes, capital gains and school district income taxes, which Harris says some residents confuse with the city’s income tax.
“There is a difference between school income tax and city income tax,” Harris said.
When a city institutes an income tax, that tax is withheld by an employer and paid to the city where the employee works. Someone who lives in Reynoldsburg but works in Columbus, for instance, would only pay Columbus’ income tax – not Reynoldsburg’s.
However, if an employee pays an income tax that is less than Reynoldsburg’s, that employee is responsible for the difference.
“Reynoldsburg is 1.5 percent, but Pickerington’s is 1 percent, so if you work in Pickerington, you owe Reynoldsburg 0.5 percent,” Harris said.
Though there are some communities in Franklin County that have a 2-percent income tax – 0.5 percent less than what Reynoldsburg is proposing – Harris said there aren’t many residents who live in Reynoldsburg and work in those municipalities. Most people who Reynoldsburg collects an income tax from do not live in the city.
“Of the withholding tax that RITA collects, about 75 percent comes from taxpayers that live somewhere else and work here,” Harris said.
Harris said though the city generates some income from other taxes residents pay, it’s not nearly as much as most believe.
For a $100,000 home in Reynoldsburg, an owner owes about $2,706 in annual property taxes, he said. Of that, the city gets $21.44. A majority – 58 percent – goes to Reynoldsburg Schools.
How the city is moving forward
Reynoldsburg City Council must approve an ordinance to place the measure on the ballot in May 2017. City officials have begun drafting the ballot language, which must be submitted to the Board of Elections by Feb. 1.
Mayor Brad McCloud said there will be binding language included in the ordinance that includes funding the construction of a community center.
Additional town hall meetings are planned as well, with the next one scheduled in January, though an exact date and location is to be determined. At that meeting, YMCA and city officials will present the latest programming and design plans for the proposed facility.
Reynoldsburg City Attorney Jed Hood said officials have an open door policy and encourage anyone with questions to contact city representatives.