Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Elyria Proposed Income Tax Increase

Last night at Strategic Planning, the Administration provided new information regarding its request to Council to put an income tax increase on the ballot.  That information is in the Available Documents section of this page.  It describes the proposed uses for the new revenue.  The new tax will be .25%, and will be temporary, with its ending to coincide with the ending of the current temporary .5% in 4.5 years.

I asked the Administration to explain the net impact of recent cuts from the state, the SAFER grant, the COPS grant and other reductions in revenue, along with all of the savings we have generated from reviewing and re-bidding contracts, improved efficiencies in workflow, savings in workers' compensation premiums, insurance premiums, implemented items from the State Performance Audit, proposed changes in manpower in the Fire Department upon expiration of SAFER (along with attrition that has already occurred), equipment and savings realized from our new contract with LifeCare by which the EFD will not longer be first responders, savings from our new computer system and purchasing system and all of the changes we have implemented over the past year.  Unfortunately, none of that information has been analyzed and compiled, so we really do not have a good idea at this point what our budget would look like next year in light of all of these changes.  We don't know how much, if anything, we need to maintain our current or planned level of services, taking into consideration reductions in EFD manning.  There is a lot of information that is simply missing and, as a result, I did not vote to support putting an income tax on the ballot in November.  Also troubling to me is the fact that none of this new money will be used to supplement our street resurfacing program, which is in dire need after the rough winter we just experienced, and none of the money has been earmarked or dedicated to economic development efforts--increasing the revenue capacity of the City by creating new jobs, target marketing to bring in new businesses and assisting/encouraging the current businesses to invest more in Elyria and expand here if they are able. 

Instead, we will ask for $3.6 million.  Nearly half of it will be for the fire department.  $1.1 million will be used for fire department manpower alone.  As part of $1.55 million, the EFD will also get a new "1500 GPM Pumper" truck, "generators for stations 3 and 4," and "repairs to stations 1, 3 and 4." 

The police department would get $880K to replace the money lost from the COPS Grant, dollar for dollar, plus vehicle replacements (which have been in progress), building upkeep repairs, police vests and equipment, police computers, chemical munitions, plus the creation of a "traffic unit" and equipment such as radar detectors, laser units, in-car video systems, and license plate readers.   

Other proposed uses are set forth in the document as well, including money to give to the volunteer block watch groups, the police auxiliary and a reverse 911 system.

The Council voted to support putting the tax on the ballot by a vote of 8-2 (Mark Jessie was absent).  Voting in support were Jack Baird, Mike Lotko, Vic Stewart, Tom Callahan, Jack Cerra, Donna Mitchell, Marcus Madison and Brenda Davis.  Voting against were myself and Larry Tanner.

One item that was requested of the Administration is to draft a proposed budget to show what cuts would need to be made across the City in the event that a new income tax would fail.  Most of the Council members present agreed that this level of detail is necessary to justify and support an income tax increase.  The residents deserve realistic information, not simply "doom and gloom" threats.  It will be interesting to see what information is provided, and how quickly. 

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