Upper Arlington News

Council yet to make decision between income, property tax hike

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Upper Arlington City Council discussed three tax options July 7 designed to increase municipal revenue, with a decision likely looming next Monday.

Although at least some council members seem inclined to support the Citizen Financial Review Task Force's recommendation to place a 0.5-percent income tax increase before voters Nov. 4, two additional options were debated at the July 7 council meeting.

In addition to pending legislation to place an income tax issue on the November ballot that would ask voters to increase the city's income tax from 2 percent to 2.5 percent, council also introduced ordinances to increase local property taxes so the city could pay for approximately $78.4 million in bonds to replace and repair roads, sidewalks, sewers and water lines.

In the meantime, council members decided not to pursue a reduction of the city's income tax credit from 100 percent to 80 percent; the credit goes to residents for income taxes they pay to other cities.

Council is expected to decide whether to seek an income tax increase or property tax increase at its July 14 meeting, slated for 7:30 p.m. at the Upper Arlington Municipal Services Center, 3600 Tremont Road.

Councilman John C. Adams said Monday he'll "be supporting the income tax," but noted one advantage of the property tax increase would be that it sets aside funds specifically for the city's infrastructure needs, or capital-improvement program.

Council President and Upper Arlington Mayor Don Leach also said he favors the income tax because he believes a property tax increase would "unfairly" affect senior citizens and people with fixed incomes.

Councilman Mike Schadek said he's inclined to follow the recommendation of the council-appointed task force, which consisted of 13 community members who have served in a variety of professional capacities.

"We charged 13 varied members of the community, all with different persuasions and points of view, and for them to come back with a very clear, decisive recommendation that this is the way to go, I really find it pretty persuasive," Schadek said.

A differing viewpoint came from Councilman Erik Yassenoff, who throughout the revenue debate has maintained his opposition to an income tax increase.

Yassenoff said he believes a property tax increase that could be applied to streets, curbs, gutters and sidewalks -- coupled with increases to the city's fees for water, sewer and stormwater uses -- would be the most "simple, equitable, broad-based" approach.

City Finance Director Cathe Armstrong said Yassenoff's plan would help Upper Arlington pay for streets, gutters and sidewalks for 28 years, but it would not fund the rest of the city's CIP, which has identified a total of $113 million in infrastructure needs over the next decade.

"We're not here living in a dream world," Leach said. "We're here to (determine) how we fund the program."

No one from the public spoke on the proposed tax issues at council's meeting Monday, or at a meeting held a week ago.

According to Armstrong, the average household income in the city is $92,000.

She and members of the task force have concluded that increasing the income tax rate from 2 percent to 2.5 percent would increase Upper Arlington's annual revenue by $3.5 million, and that money would be applied to the CIP.

Such a move also would bring Upper Arlington's income tax in line with those in Bexley, Columbus, Grandview Heights, Whitehall and Worthington.

Armstrong said 55 percent of Upper Arlington's residents wouldn't be affected by the increase because they're already paying 2.5 percent in income taxes to cities where they work.

She said the average value of a home in Upper Arlington is $330,000, and the proposed property tax increase would result in average homeowners paying about $485 more per year.

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