Reynoldsburg Mayor Brad McCloud and City Council President Doug Joseph faced off last week over the city's request for an income tax increase on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Speaking during an Oct. 8 candidates' night at which the income tax issue was also discussed, it was clear that the mayor supports the request and Joseph opposes it.
The event at Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church was sponsored by the Franklin County Consortium for Good Government.
Issue 23 is a 1-percent income tax hike that, if approved, would raise the city income tax from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent. It would generate about $5 million annually for the city, according to City Auditor Richard Harris.
Harris has said the tax increase would have its largest impact on people who live and work in Reynoldsburg, although people who live in Reynoldsburg and work in any city that has an income tax rate lower than 2.5 percent would also see an increase in their taxes if the measure is approved.
People who live in Reynoldsburg but work in Columbus, Worthington or Whitehall, for instance, would not pay any additional income taxes because those cities already have a 2.5-percent tax rate.
People who are retired, drawing a pension or not working would see no increase in taxes. The tax increase would affect only earned income, not retirement or investment income.
McCloud, who has been mayor for the past six years, said failure of Issue 23 "would have a fundamental impact" on the city.
"Our city operates on one-half of the revenue of other cities our size," he said. "We have lost millions in revenue from the local government and estate taxes, which has affected our bottom line. We have made cuts and shared resources and continue to look for savings.
"It comes down to, what kind of city do people want to live in?"
McCloud said Reynoldsburg needs more revenue to pay for police officers, road repairs and other safety issues.
"The lifespan of a road surface is usually about 20 years, but at our current rate of road repair, we would barely complete scheduled repairs in 47 years," he said. "We also currently have 54 police officers when we should have about 63 officers for a city our size."
Joseph said he has been on Reynoldsburg City Council for eight years.
"In the past seven years, there have been four requests for tax increases that have been turned down," he said. "For three of those requests, 60 percent of voters said they did not want their income tax raised. It is clear that voters want us to look at other ways to bring in revenue."
He said the city is currently one of the lowest-taxed in Franklin County, which could attract businesses and give Reynoldsburg an opportunity to grow.
"Our location is close to Interstate 270 and the airport and (is) a prime location for new business," he said. "If the tax issue passes, we will become one of the highest in taxes of area suburbs."
McCloud said under the current tax structure, any business would have to be huge to help the city's finances.
"We would have to have a huge business like a hospital come in to raise enough through economic development under our tax structure," he said.
Joseph said the fact that voters have repeatedly turned down tax increase requests is significant.
"The bottom line is that we are talking about people paying higher taxes when maybe they just can't afford higher income taxes in this economy," he said.
He said city leaders should think "outside the box" and work on ways to increase revenue.
"When voters keep saying 'no,' we should not keep putting a tax hike on the ballot," he said. "We need to find other ways to raise revenue."
Joseph said those "other ways" do not include a tax credit reduction, which other Reynoldsburg City Council members approved in July, but which McCloud vetoed before it could go into effect.
"I was opposed to the tax-credit reduction, which would have affected far more residents but was like a slap in the face to our citizens," Joseph said.
The 50-percent tax credit reduction would require residents who work outside the city to pay a 0.75-percent income tax to Reynoldsburg on top of whatever they pay to the city where they work. It would also raise income taxes without voter approval.
McCloud vetoed the tax credit reduction July 25, saying he thought residents should make the decision on higher income taxes at the polls.
Last week, however, McCloud said the tax-credit reduction might be a consideration.
"I can't rule out entertaining that, if in fact it would be coupled with an income tax issue, so that if the income tax issue passed, the tax credit reduction could be repealed," he said.
The city has posted an income tax-cost calculator on an information website at reynoldsburgfacts.com.