Twinsburg residents will get the chance to change their minds about a quarter-percent income tax hike they approved in 2009.
And some city officials say it will be OK if they do.
The city had asked for the financial boost after learning the Chrysler Stamping Plant, which employed more than 1,000, was closing. Voters agreed to raise the city income tax rate from 2 percent to 2.25 percent to help make up for the loss.
When City Council voted to put the measure on the ballot four years ago, it passed a second ordinance saying it would offer voters a repeal option in 2013.
As promised, council voted last week to put the repeal on this November’s ballot.
Mayor Katherine Procop said she would love for the city to keep the extra money.
“Well, obviously I would love it if the voters left the tax in place as it is,” she said.
But the city has financially returned to its pre-crisis standing, she said.
“If [the voters] decide to remove the quarter percent, we’re at least in a fiscal position that we were in right before Chrysler left the city,” she said. “We won’t be ahead, but we’ll be back to about 2007.”
Law Director David Maistros called the city’s situation an “upfront, feel good story. We went to residents when Chrysler was leaving and said if you help us, hopefully we’ll get back on our feet. Now we’re back on our feet.”
Economic Development Director Larry Finch said several businesses have expanded or moved into town in the past four years.
“We are close to where we were about the time Chrysler closed” in 2010, Finch said.
The Cleveland Clinic established its Twinsburg Family Health and Surgery Center, with more than 300 jobs, in 2011. Verizon Wireless added about 100 new jobs. Windstream Corp. moved in, bringing 120 jobs. And AssuraMed (formerly Edgepark Surgical) has grown to more than 1,000 employees.
Finch said other companies, like GE Energy and Rockwell Automation, have added people, and a nursing home under construction will employ about 140 people.
Finch said he’s in favor of the repeal.
“It’s hard for me to go out on a limb and say that, but my responsibility is economic development, and we’re at a disadvantage if our tax rate isn’t comparable to other communities,” he said.
Finch and Procop both pointed out that the city has recovered even before the former Chrysler has been redeveloped. Those 165 acres are poised to give the city even more growth.
The owner of the land — now called the Cornerstone Business Park — is still in the process of clearing the property. A $3 million Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant will help finish that effort this summer. About 400,000 square feet of building has yet to come down.
“We’re excited it has gone as well as it has,” Finch said of the property. “We’re not stuck with big vacant buildings.”
Once the property is clear, the city has a $2.2 million Jobs Ready Site Grant available to pay for installing roads and utilities on the 165 acres.
Procop said she is pleased the city’s economic development base has become much more diversified.
“We don’t ever want to get into a position where we’re relying on one industry again,” she said.
Finance Director Karen Howse estimated the city would lose about $2 million a year if the quarter-percent increase were repealed. The city collected $23 million in income tax last year.
Howse said she is not taking a stance on how residents should vote on the issue.
“Council kept their promise and put it on the ballot. Now it’s back in the voters’ hands,” she said.
She did say that the city is in a “good place” because of the many budget reductions made in recent years, including wage freezes, some job loss through attrition and not renewing some service contracts.
“Because of those actions and others, it put us in a good place,” she said.