A vote to increase Powell's income-tax rate for the first time in nearly 30 years is quickly approaching, and the city still is trying to find ways to educate residents on what exactly they'll be voting on.
In August, Powell City Council voted to place an issue on the Nov. 6 general election ballot that would raise the city's income tax from 0.75 percent to 1.15 percent while increasing the tax 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.
Ballot language also mandates that 25 percent of all income-tax revenue be dedicated to infrastructure maintenance and improvements.
According to the city, a resident earning $100,000 per year would see a $400 net increase in taxes per year if the issue is approved by voters.
With ballot language and tax calculations set, the city has turned its attention to voter outreach. Powell held its first public forum related to the topic Sept. 25 with the aim of providing purely objective numbers, facts and plans for the funding that would be collected.
City spokeswoman Megan Canavan stressed the city's job is not to campaign for the increase, but to inform residents.
"The big thing is that we look at information as a service to our residents," she said. "Delivering information on a topic like a potential tax increase is an important topic for our residents to know about. ... The city is a nonpartisan party involved in this.
"So it's really important, and it's our duty and responsibility to only provide factual, fact-based information so the public can draw their own opinion and conclusions."
Turnout at the Sept. 25 forum, however, was underwhelming. The session drew single-digit attendance, which Leif Carlson, president of the Olentangy Ridge Civic Association, said was a bad sign for the ballot issue.
Carlson, one of the few in attendance, said he felt outreach would be key to the issue's passage.
"It's tough to educate people when no one shows up," he said with a laugh, "and they're going to have to educate people to get this to pass."
Canavan said the city isn't concerned about attendance and knows evening meetings can be a difficult ask for busy families.
To compensate, she said, the city is trying every angle possible to provide the information on an on-demand basis so timing won't be an issue.
"It really is about providing multiple avenues for residents to get informed about this topic," she said. "We understand that people have very busy lives that live in our community, and an event like a public forum may not be the easiest thing for them to make. ... So we have multiple ways for them to find out more information on their own time."
For Carlson, the session was useful to lay out plain numbers and information.
He said he was able to calculate how the issue would affect him and considered the increase "pretty nominal." He said he thinks residents who see the facts broken down so plainly may be more willing to vote for the increase.
"When you break it down to a number that simple, I think it carries a lot more water," he said.
Canavan said it's too early to establish any common threads among feedback from voters the city has spoken to. But she said regardless of their feeling on the ballot issue, the outreach efforts already have been useful.
"When we've spoken with residents and given them information, it's been a great way to spark conversation," she said. "It may not be only about taxes or city finances; it could be about other things. So having a presence at events and having these public forums and ways to get in touch with the community ... has provided many opportunities to talk to our residents about a variety of topics."
A second public forum on the proposed tax increase will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 30 in council chambers at the Village Green Municipal Building, 47 Hall St.
Members of the Citizen Financial Review Task Force will provide a 20-minute presentation beginning at 6:30 p.m. on how the money would be collected and how the city plans to spend it to maintain streets, bike paths, parks and other infrastructure. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.
For more information on the Nov. 6 ballot issue, visit cityofpowell.us.