Rocky Fork Enterprise

May 7 elections

Income-tax levy would sustain city services

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Gahanna residents will decide the level and quality of services the city should provide in the future by voting on Issue 4, a proposal to increase the city's income-tax rate from 1.5 to 2.5 percent.

The tax issue on the May 7 ballot is for general municipal operations and services, including but not limited to police, street maintenance, parks and recreation and capital improvements.

If approved, the tax would become effective beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

In addition to the tax rate, Gahanna City Council has pledged to adjust the tax credit residents pay to their work city from 83.3 to 100 percent.

Most of Gahanna's working residents are employed in a city that has a 2.5-percent income tax rate for which Gahanna currently gives an 83.3-percent credit, for an effective tax rate of 2.75 percent, city leaders have said. Under the proposed tax increase and full credit, those same residents' effective tax rate would be reduced to 2.5 percent.

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb has said the city needs to either increase its revenue or make serious cuts to maintain a balanced budget.

The proposed rate is expected to generate about $8 million annually, which is the same as the city's projected deficit.

If the level fails, Stinchcomb said, city staffing levels and equipment for all departments, including the police force, would be at "considerable risk."

Other areas identified as at-risk are the parks system and maintenance, road maintenance, economic development investment, basic services and community enhancement programs like street signs and continuation of multipurpose trail construction.

Levy approval would allow the city to sustain or re-establish past service levels and continue capital improvements. Some of those improvements would include expansion of the city's multipurpose trails, rebuilding the Gahanna Swim Club and rebuilding and maintaining roads.

Gahanna has one of the lowest tax rates in Franklin County, along with Reynoldsburg, at 1.5 percent.

Columbus, Bexley, Whitehall and Worthington have a 2.5-percent tax rate. Cities with a 2-percent or 2.25-percent rate include Dublin, Westerville, Hilliard and New Albany.

Gahanna assistant city administrator Brandi Braun told ThisWeek the city has spent the past several years engaging residents and City Council through a long-term strategic planning processes, culminating in the city's five-year capital improvement plan and forecast, she said.

"In order to sustain our service levels and maintain a high quality of life, additional revenue is needed," Braun said. "The election is an opportunity for Gahanna residents to affirm what they want Gahanna to be next year -- and in the foreseeable future. The reform proposal as presented does not generate the most money. It generates the amount of money needed to sustain the Gahanna that our residents and businesses have worked so hard to create.

"We have attempted to engage and inform the residents as much as possible so they are able to make an informed decision about the future of their city."

To see a video on Gahanna's proposed income-tax measure, go to ThisWeekNEWS.com

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