By Dustin Ensinger
Despite the fact that Reynoldsburg residents have rejected four income tax hikes in as many tries, one councilman is not willing to give up on addressing what he believes to be the city’s revenue problem.
Councilman Scott Barrett said it is high time to address the city’s lack of revenue and he asked for a discussion on the matter to be added to the finance committee’s May 5 agenda.
“One way or another, I would like to get it out of the bullpen and into the field,” Barrett said.
Reynoldsburg voters last year rejected an income tax increase – from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent – by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin.
Voters have not approved a tax increase in the city since 1981.
“We really run in place as a city and we don’t make any investment to infrastructure to maintain the integrity of our city,” Barrett said. “We slowly lose and it degrades around us.”
Barrett wants to have serious discussions about another ballot measure. He said he is also open to eliminating a tax credit for city residents who work and pay income taxes in other municipalities.
Both ideas were recommended by an ad hoc committee formed in 2011 to study the city’s “structural imbalance” between revenues and expenditures.
However, Mayor Brad McCloud last year vetoed an approved council resolution to eliminate the 100 percent income tax credit for workers living outside the city. Council members said they planned to repeal the measure if the income tax increase passed.
Beyond the ad hoc committee recommendations, Barrett said he plans to introduce some ideas of his own.
“Our job is to represent the people and work on their behalf and right now it’s not happening. It’s going to get addressed,” Barrett said. “I’ll keep fighting for it.”
The city operates on a budget that generates about $14 million in income annually. Gahanna and Reynoldsburg are the only two Franklin County cities to tax their residents’ income at a rate of less than 2 percent.
The finance committee voted unanimously to send a resolution approving a 3-percent cost-of-living increase to non-bargaining unit city employees to the full council.
The raise would affect about 60 employees, according to City Auditor Richard Harris. Funding for the pay raises was included in a budget council passed last month.Non-bargaining unit employees have not received a raise for the past three years.
DARE to continue
The safety committee unanimously voted to send a Drug Use Prevention grant application to full council under emergency legislation.
The grant will provide the funding for the city of Reynoldsburg’s police department to continue to provide DARE in elementary schools.
Councilman Cornelius McGrady questioned whether the program would begin to address the “heroin epidemic” in the area.
Police Chief Jim O’Neill said the grant requires the program to follow the approved curriculum. When it was created in the 1980’s, heroin use was not a widespread problem, he said.
“Heroin was something that was in the rearview mirror,” O’Neill said.
Councilwoman Leslie Kelly said the program is invaluable for the relationship it creates between students and law enforcement officials.
“That in itself is worth the grant,” Kelly said.