Upper Arlington News

City notes

More conversations coming about city tax increase


When I was hired by city council to serve as your city manager -- and it's hard to believe it was three years ago already -- my charge was clear: Help the city overcome the very real financial challenges that lay before us.

I took that charge to heart and I'm proud to say the work of the Citizen Financial Review Task Force has affirmed that our efforts to date have been sincere and substantial, without noticeably impacting the services we provide. But it is not enough if we are to maintain current service levels and invest in our aging infrastructure to the extent recommended by our 10-year capital improvements program.

As we've been sharing highlights of the work of the task force, I have heard comments of surprise from some residents who didn't realize that all of their income tax dollars go to another community, and often at the higher 2.5-percent rate because they work in Columbus or another community with a 2.5-percent income tax rate.

It's actually a pretty sobering thought when you consider that more than 80 percent of the income earned by working UA residents is earned in other cities and therefore, the resulting income taxes are paid to those communities. And with our limited percentage of land dedicated to commercial activities, we are clearly not attracting that same level of nonresidents to jobs in our community.

While bringing UA's rate up to 2.5 percent would not bring those income tax dollars to UA, it would capture money currently paid to higher-tax communities from nonresidents who work in our city but live elsewhere.

It may not seem like a lot when you think of how much income is earned and taxed elsewhere, but the difference for UA would be enough to tackle our backlog of capital needs while maintaining service levels as they are today.

As we prepare to ask the Upper Arlington community to support an increase in the municipal income tax rate, I hope to greatly expand upon my previous coffees and meetings in the community.

This issue is too important to UA's future for residents' questions to go unanswered, especially since we have now heard that out-of-state interests are targeting communities like Upper Arlington and will likely embark on a campaign designed to divert attention from the critical need for capital expenditures to replace streets, water and sewer lines that in some cases are approaching a century in age.

We want to be sure that you have every opportunity to learn the facts on this issue, the history behind it, what it will accomplish and how few in our community will actually be financially impacted.

Beginning in September, I have set aside time on Friday mornings to meet one-on-one with residents at their request.

Additionally, my staff is scheduling numerous neighborhood and community meetings dedicated to conversations on the income tax ballot issue; to date, we have approximately 15 such meetings scheduled, but there's plenty of room for more.

If you are interested in hosting a meeting for your neighbors, or you would like to schedule time to meet with me in person, please call Suzanne Beach at 614-583-5042.

You may also visit uaoh.net, where you will find an extensive section on the ballot issue with updates being made regularly.

Don't be surprised when you see a completely different website by the way -- we've made some significant upgrades to improve the user experience, with more on the way in the coming weeks.

Challenges like last winter's brutal weather have made the need for action critically clear.

Please keep an open mind about the upcoming ballot issue and don't succumb to appeals by nonresidents who don't put Upper Arlington's future uppermost.

I look forward to meeting with you this fall.

Theodore J. Staton is Upper Arlington's city manager.