Upper Arlington News

Guest column

Task force: 'Best option' is income tax increase

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After approximately six months of work, the Citizen Financial Review Task Force has met for the last time and we are now making final edits to a report that captures our findings and recommendations.

While the report goes into much more detail, I wish to share with you a brief summary of our findings:

The negative impacts of a declining Local Government Fund and loss of the estate tax are real and significant.

The city faces a backlog of necessary infrastructure work that, if not addressed as proposed within the 10-year capital improvements program, threatens to set Upper Arlington on a path of decline that would have negative ramifications for all of us.

In response to declining revenues, the city has taken extensive steps to trim its workforce, identify shared service opportunities and expand its cost recovery efforts.

Despite the city's efforts -- which are ongoing -- a look ahead indicates that projected revenues will not be sufficient to pay for infrastructure needs while maintaining services and programs at the level expected by residents in our community.

After considering several other options, the majority of the task force believes the best option for addressing the revenue shortfall is for UA City Council to place before the voters a request to raise the municipal income tax from 2 percent to 2.5 percent, in line with the rate charged by several neighboring communities, including Columbus.

If approved, all but a very small portion of the approximately $3.5 million generated annually will be allocated to fund the city's capital improvements program.

We are scheduled to present our report and its findings in full at a special city council meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 5. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Municipal Services Center, 3600 Tremont Road.

Thereafter, it is my understanding that council will hold deliberations on the findings and make a determination relative to our ballot issue recommendation during the course of its June and early July meetings. Throughout this process, public input will be welcomed.

I want to thank the task force members for their participation, their ideas and their enthusiasm throughout this process. We had a lot of information provided to us and even asked for more.

I believe we more than accomplished our goals: confirming that city council and the administration have accomplished a lot in their efforts to tighten budgets and find new revenue sources, confirming that options do exist for a long-term solution to address the revenue decline and infrastructure needs, but also confirming that those options are very limited.

I also want to thank City Manager Ted Staton, Finance and Administrative Services Director Cathe Armstrong and other members of staff for the excellent level of support provided to us throughout the process.

The full report will be enclosed in the summer edition of the UA Insight resident newsletter, which will be mailed to all households late next week. I encourage you to read through this document, as it provides an accurate summary of our work, our findings and the reasons behind the recommendations we ultimately developed. And I encourage you to join us June 5 as we make our presentation to city council.

Rich Simpson is chairman of the Citizen Financial Review Task Force.

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