Upper Arlington News

Guest column

Discussions starting on city's income tax request

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With the Labor Day weekend behind us and the kids back in school, families are returning to their regular schedules.

In the weeks ahead, as part of the lead up to the Nov. 4 election, it's time for our community to focus on Issue 23, a very important issue affecting our future that UA voters will be asked to decide. We thought it would be appropriate to take this opportunity to "set the table" for the upcoming discussion.

Issue 23 has been placed on the ballot by city council to increase the municipal income tax rate, with the sole purpose of dedicating the funds that would be generated toward fixing UA's streets, curbs and gutters, water and sewer lines.

You don't have to look very far to see the evidence of an aging infrastructure, which in some cases is close to 100 years old. Councils past and present have done what they could to address necessary improvements and maintenance, but we now have a significant backlog of needed work.

Unfortunately, several factors have played a role in bringing us to the point we have reached today:

• The amount of necessary work has been larger than the available funding could address.

• Fixing streets is challenging because no sooner do you reconstruct and repave your priority list when a new set of streets deteriorate to a level of urgency.

• We lost a primary funding source when the estate tax was eliminated at the start of 2013.

• The city has experienced additional hits to its revenue stream since the 2008 recession began.

Despite the city going to great lengths to trim its workforce and streamline services, funding projections for operations clearly show there is no room in the budget to redirect money to infrastructure projects without reducing service levels.

As council considered the options before us, we sought input from the community, convening the 13-member Citizen Financial Review Task Force to take a close look at the city's financial picture and infrastructure needs. This group concluded that it was paramount for Upper Arlington to implement a 10-year capital improvements program that would address the significant backlog of work.

The task force also concluded that an increase in the income tax rate was the only logical option for the city to pursue.

The proposed increase would take Upper Arlington's rate from 2 percent to 2.5 percent.

This rate is familiar to many of us who work in Columbus, Grandview or Worthington, since these communities already charge 2.5 percent, and income tax is first paid to the city in which we work.

Should the increase take effect in UA, none of us would pay more than 2.5 percent, thanks to Upper Arlington's 100-percent tax credit.

Additional factors appealed to council in choosing the income tax to fund our capital needs. For example, most seniors won't be affected since passive forms of income such as Social Security benefits and pensions are exempt from income tax. Plus, it keeps the extra funds in UA that currently go elsewhere for those who work here but live in other 2.5-percent income tax rate communities.

We only have space to share some high points with you today, and so we strongly urge you to do your part by learning more about this issue, why it's so important to UA's future and to head to the polls Nov. 4 to vote on Issue 23.

The city has an information section on Issue 23 on its website, at www.uaoh.net/incometax. Additionally, UA households are slated to receive information by direct mail.

If you prefer one-on-one conversation, City Manager Ted Staton is ready to embark on a tour of UA homes to talk about the history and facts and to answer questions. He has also set aside his Friday mornings beginning next week to meet directly with residents at their request. Call 614-583-5042 to learn more about these opportunities.

Don Leach and Debbie Johnson are president and vice president, respectively, of Upper Arlington City Council.

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