Tax credit plan sent back to finance committee
A new ordinance that would cut the city income tax credit in half and raise taxes for Reynoldsburg residents who work outside the city -- without voter approval -- didn't sit too well with some residents at council's Monday meeting.
Reynoldsburg City Council heard the first reading of the ordinance June 10, with about a dozen residents in attendance.
"If you raise the city's income tax for 80 percent of people who work outside the city of Reynoldsburg without letting people vote on it, that makes you a bully," city resident Debby Peck told council members.
She likened reducing the tax credit to bullies taking lunch money away from students on a playground.
She also said she was offended by a quote attributed to Councilman Mel Clemens in a Columbus Dispatch story indicating three-fourths of Reynoldsburg residents work outside the city, then come home to use Reynoldsburg roads and facilities, effectively not contributing to their home city but to other municipalities.
If approved, the proposed ordinance would reduce the city income tax credit by 50 percent, so about 80 percent of employed residents would pay a 0.75-percent income tax to Reynoldsburg on top of whatever they pay the city where they work.
Voters have three times rejected ballot issues to raise the city income tax rate, which has not increased since 1982. An attempt to raise the income tax from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent failed in 2011. Two earlier attempts in 2006 also failed at the ballot.
"I supported the tax issue in 2011, although 63 percent of voters did not," Peck said. "I think you need to regroup and develop a plan to help the city prosper. People have voted to say they don't support an increase in the income tax, so you decide to just take it?"
Peck created a Facebook page called "Reynoldsburg -- No additional taxes without voter approval," which has 15 members so far. Three of those members are City Council President Doug Joseph and council members Chris Long and Leslie Kelly.
Kelly and Long both objected to reducing the income tax credit at council committee meetings June 3.
"It is not fair to our citizens to raise taxes without giving them a chance to vote," Kelly said. "I would support putting a tax increase on the ballot, but not using the back door to get that tax increase."
Long said he thought it was "shameful" that Reynoldsburg City Council would "treat our citizens like 6-year-olds, telling them if they behave and vote for higher taxes, we won't reduce the tax credit."
Another resident at the June 10 meeting held an opposite opinion.
Bruce Sowell, a former member of the Reynoldsburg Reserve Police Force, commended council "for your courage to get to this point, as someone who has watched Reynoldsburg grow from a village to a city."
Sowell said he would be in favor of the 50-percent income tax credit reduction.
"We could pretend we're doing great, but when we have a crumbling infrastructure, we need to do something," he said. "We can't continue to kick the can down the road."
Resident Will Schuck, who ran unsuccessfully in the May Republican primary, wrote a letter to council members since he could not attend the June 10 meeting. He also sent a copy to ThisWeek and posted the letter online.
The letter suggested ways the city could find additional revenue without reducing the tax credit.
The list included an across-the-board 5-percent pay cut for all city employees; reducing the city's contributions to employees' health savings accounts by 50 percent; reducing pension pickups; and allowing employees to pay the full 12 percent of their health insurance.
He said the savings that would result from his suggestions, about $1.2 million, could fund repairs to streets and city infrastructure.
"I urge you to just say 'no' to the ordinance that will raise income taxes on more than 75 percent of Reynoldsburg residents without their approval," Schuck wrote.
Council voted to return the ordinance to the finance committee for more discussion. Committee meetings will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 17, at Reynoldsburg City Hall, 7232 E. Main St.