By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MONROE - Residents likely will see an income tax increase on the fall ballot as city officials try to overcome a financial deficit that threatens city services.
Tonight) City Council members will hear the first of two readings of a ballot proposal that would increase the city's income tax from the current 1 percent to 1.5 percent if voters approve in November.
The ballot proposal also calls for a repeal of a council vote in December that reduced the tax credit for city residents who work outside the city to 0.5 percent from 1.5 percent.
If council approves the second reading of the ballot proposal during its Aug. 12 meeting, both issues would be voted on by residents as one ballot issue.
The city's impending budget deficit, which is projected to amount to $1.2 million in 2004 and could include service and city job cuts, had prompted city officials to also consider a 4.84-mill property tax increase. But officials were concerned homeowners would be overly burdened, having passed an 8.61-mill tax increase for Monroe schools in 2001.
Jay Stewart, acting financial director and development director for Monroe, said the growing Monroe business community also expressed initial support of an income tax over a property tax issue during last week's meeting of the Monroe Business Council.
"When you talk to business owners the first thing they want to know is whether city services, such as road repair, snow removal, fire and police protection, will be cut," said Stewart.
He said that included in the ballot proposal is a provision that one-third of the $1.4 million generated by the income tax increase annually would be designated exclusively to fire and police divisions.
Stewart said the income tax also would help maintain the city's current tax ratio of commercial and residential tax shares of about 50/50.
But Monroe resident Thomas Kidd, a declared City Council candidate, said regardless of the form of tax issue on the ballot, city residents are still being asked to correct costly mistakes made by city officials and council members in recent years.
"The buck shouldn't be passed on to us. It should stay with them," said Kidd in reference to revelations earlier this year of financial mismanagement blamed on two former city officials, both pressured into resignation.
"City council needs to rein in their spending," he said.
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