Powell will hold a public forum July 10 to solicit feedback on a recommendation to raise the city's income-tax rate.

City Council on June 19 heard a report from its Citizen Financial Review Task Force, an 18-member committee created earlier this year to study the city's finances and consider funding options for major infrastructure such as roads, sewers and bike paths.

After six months of meetings and hundreds of volunteer hours, the committee issued its final report, which unanimously recommended the city ask voters to raise the income-tax rate from 0.75 percent to 1.15 percent.

The proposal also would bump up the credit from 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent for residents who live in Powell but work in and pay income taxes to another municipality.

Nearly 60 percent of Powell residents work outside of the city and pay taxes to the municipalities where they work, said Richard Cline, a former City Council member who led the task force.

The proposal allows "all who live or work in Powell to contribute to the solution," Cline said. "Most of them work in communities that have a 2 or 2.5 percent income-tax rate. Powell maintains one of the lowest income-tax (rates) in Ohio. Continuing to defer infrastructure maintenance is not a viable option."

Columbus, Upper Arlington and Worthington all have 2.5 percent income-tax rates.

Council could decide to pursue a tax-related ballot issue as soon as November, although no decision has been made.

Officials estimate Powell needs about $20 million for infrastructure repairs over the next decade just to maintain current streets and sewers.

That amount addresses only the city's "critical needs" and doesn't provide funding for any new infrastructure, Cline said.

The city's income-tax rate has remained the same for 27 years.

During that time, Powell relied largely on developers to build its infrastructure as new areas were developed and spent little on maintaining it, Cline said.

A 2010 effort to raise the city's income tax rate to 1.5 percent failed in part because of the so-called "shared sacrifice," Cline said. The 2010 proposal would have raised the credit for those working out of town to 1 percent, meaning their tax rate would have been unchanged. But those who lived and worked in Powell would have paid more.

Task force member and Powell business owner Terry Hoppman said he was among the loudest 'no' votes on a tax increase in 2010. Hoppman said he supports this proposal because it is fair.

"We can't pretend that this is going to magically fix itself," Hoppman said. "We can fix this. This is our community and it's a reasonable solution."

Council member Brian Lorenz asked what would happen if a potential tax increase fails again.

"I'm not in favor of raising any income taxes," Lorenz said. "We need sufficient time to gather more public information."

The committee weighed other funding options, including a property-tax levy and the pursuit of grants.

Cline said the committee determined a property-tax increase was not a permanent solution because levies expire and the tax "falls completely on people who own property in the city of Powell."

Cutting spending across all city departments would "severely degrade city services," Cline said.

For example, a 4 percent cut across the board would net only about $300,000 annually, the committee determined.

The task force also recommended that, for the first time, Powell include ballot language mandating a minimum of 25 percent of tax revenue be designated for infrastructure maintenance.

Currently, 100 percent of the income-tax revenue is directed to the city's general fund.

It would send a message to voters, Cline said.

"If you give the city this money, you can rest assured it will be used for infrastructure maintenance," he said.

Vice Mayor Tom Counts said the report is only "first base" in the process, adding he was concerned about how the city would pay for infrastructure beyond streets and sewers, such as city buildings.

"You've got to get a lot of other people on board with your recommendations," Counts said. "There is a whole set of items that we really haven't quantified that we're going to have to maintain and repair that are a part of our city's infrastructure. Don't expect that this is going to be the cure-all for our capital-improvement and maintenance needs."

The committee also suggested the city create a business registry and a long-term capital-improvement plan.

The registry could help advertise Powell-based businesses that pay city taxes.

The capital-improvement plan could help better plan for projects and pay for them based on when they are most needed, rather than when funding is available, Cline said.

The forum is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. July 10 at the Village Green Municipal Building, 47 Hall St. The committee's report will be presented at 6:30 p.m.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews