Reynoldsburg News

Issue 23 failure

'Nothing off the table' as city deals with finances


The failure of the city income tax issue Nov. 5 may not automatically mean Reynoldsburg City Council will reconsider a tax credit reduction -- thus effectively raising income taxes without voter approval -- but "nothing is off the table," according to longtime Councilman Mel Clemens.

"I'm really disappointed," Clemens said. "I was hoping that the public felt the need to upgrade the city. We only have two ways to go: up or down. We could curtail the services we give out or cut our recreation and parks down and ask people to pay more for fees so that the programs pay for themselves.

"We are badly in need of more funds for our safety department, for more police officers and other safety issues, and need more funds to support our infrastructure," he said. "We have to come up with some additional revenue or cut back on services.

"Council will meet and talk it over and see if we have to go with a tax credit reduction or what."

Issue 23 would have raised the income tax from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent. It would primarily have affected people who live and work in Reynoldsburg, although it would also have affected people who work in municipalities with an income tax rate lower than 2.5 percent.

It would have generated about $5 million annually for the city.

Council approved a 50-percent reduction in the city's tax credit July 22, but that was vetoed by Mayor Brad McCloud, who said residents should decide whether to increase their income taxes by voting on a ballot issue.

If the tax credit reduction had been implemented, it would have raised about $3 million annually and required 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.

McCloud indicated Nov. 5 that he thought council would reconsider the tax credit reduction since voters turned down a request for an income tax increase for the fourth time since 2005.

Councilwoman Monica DeBrock and Councilman Chris Long both said an increased focus on economic development may be the way to improve Reynoldsburg's financial future.

DeBrock said she agrees that "everything is on the table," with the exception of the tax credit reduction.

"Obviously, I originally voted for the tax credit reduction, but I always said it was a Band-Aid fix," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, it is off the table now that it was vetoed, although I believe the city needs additional revenue.

"It is always better for citizens to come to the polls and vote," she said. "An income tax increase could go back to the voters with an option that if it did not pass, voters would invest in the future with a tax credit reduction."

DeBrock said the city "does well with what it has" but it is time to reevaluate how the money is spent.

"I think we need to start looking at long-term improvements and economic development," she said. "It may be time to really pull back on activities that are more short-term.

"Fun activities are a part of the quality of life for Reynoldsburg, but at some point, we may have to say we can't fund something, whether it is paying for the electricity for the Tomato Festival or providing extra duty police officers for the fireworks or parades," she said. "If we can't fund economic development, we should not be funding things that are not priorities. Economic development will not happen without making an investment into the community."

Long agreed that focusing on economic development should be the next step for the city.

"A lot of individuals compare us to Gahanna and Grove City, but forget that they started their economic development 10 years ago," he said. "We need to be patient. We can bring more revenue into the city with economic development and redevelopment."

Long is manager of the Office of Strategic Business Investments for the Ohio Development Services Agency.

He said hiring Dan Havener to be the city's acting economic development director, along with programs available to the city from the Ohio Development Services Agency, will help Reynoldsburg move toward more successful economic development.

"I personally believe the tax credit reduction should be reserved for an emergency situation," he said. "We are not currently in a financial emergency situation."

Auditor Richard Harris was asked during a Reynoldsburg Area Chamber of Commerce lunch in September if the city would experience a budget shortfall if the tax increase failed at the ballot.

Harris said a shortfall would not happen this year, but noted that Reynoldsburg is not spending money on roads and capital improvements.

"Our infrastructure is crumbling," he said.