Rocky Fork Enterprise

Resident questions Gahanna's tax-reform measure

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Gahanna resident Ryan Demro, a former councilman from near Cleveland, sought more information about the city's proposed income tax reform during the March 4 Gahanna City Council meeting.

Demro, a former Lakewood City Council member, was the only participant during a third public hearing concerning legislation that would adjust from 83.3 to 100 percent the tax credit given to residents who pay income tax to other municipalities.

The tax credit would be adjusted, if voters approve an increase in the city's income tax rate from 1.5 to 2.5 percent on May 7.

Demro asked council members if they would characterize reductions in services as critical if the income tax fails. He also requested each council member's position on the tax, and he asked if tax parity could be achieved without an increase in the rate.

Council member David Samuel encouraged Demro to examine the city's website (gahanna.gov, click on tax-reform proposal link) to learn more about it. The site contains the five-year forecast and capital-needs assessment, as well as a tax calculator to figure what the change would cost.

Samuel said the change is necessary because of a reduction in income from the state, such as the inheritance tax.

"Our reserve money will be gone in the next several years," he said. "When you look at other cities, we're unique. We're very conservative in how we spend our money. We're very transparent."

Samuel said he would vote for the measure.

Council member Brian Larick said he would characterize the need as critical.

"Over the long term, I have significant financial concerns in maintaining core services," he said.

Based on what he has seen, Larick said, the increase in the rate is necessary. He said he doesn't see how parity could be achieved without adjusting the rate.

"What we have under our control is the credit," Larick said.

Finance director Jennifer Teal has said the goal of the tax change is to fairly allocate the cost of city services among users. She estimates a $8 million deficit annually without additional revenue, and the proposed reform would close that gap.

Council member Ryan Jolley said the priority for cuts would involve a long, pain-staking collaboration if the issue fails at the ballot. He said the reform is necessary for basic needs to provide quality of life.

Council president Stephen Renner said a lot of information is available to the public, thanks to the city administration and Larick's work on council last year. Renner said he definitely believes the reform is needed.

Other council members didn't respond during the meeting as to their position on the tax proposal.

Council members Karen Angelou and Beryl Anderson have said they're against raising taxes.

Demro told ThisWeek he would continue to seek more information about the tax reform and what residents value within the city, in terms of services. He said he works in Columbus, making him one of about 8,500 Gahanna residents who work where a higher tax rate is imposed. Those residents have a current tax rate of 2.75 percent. If the tax rate were changed, concurrently with the credit, those residents would see a reduction to a total effective rate of 2.5 percent.

If voters approve the increase in the tax rate, it would be effective Jan. 1, 2014.

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said she would continue to discuss the tax reform during coffees at Panera Bread at the Commons at Clark Hall. Coffees are scheduled for 7:30 a.m. March 7, 11 a.m. March 14, 2 p.m. March 21 and 5 p.m. March 28.

She and members of the administration also are available to discuss the proposal at the request of community groups and organizations.

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