After years of cuts in state and federal funding, Barbertonís roads and streets are deteriorating. Like many cities, Barberton has felt the effects of the Statehouse reducing local government funds. Meanwhile, income tax revenue suffered from the recession. Local officials have few choices to gain the needed resources.
The result is that Mayor William Judge and the City Council are supporting Issue 8 on the Nov. 5 ballot. The measure would help to maintain and improve the cityís roads, an essential part of taking advantage of economic development opportunities. It involves a modest, 0.25-percentage point increase in the cityís income tax, now at 2 percent.
All of the $1.3 million a year raised by the tax increase would be dedicated to needed resurfacing and reconstruction. The city now spends about $250,000 on residential resurfacing. The additional money would help in providing the local share needed to leverage state and federal grants and paying off debt service for major projects.
Proponents understandably stress that many retirees would not feel the effect because only earned income would taxed. More, those who live in Barberton and work in Akron already pay Akronís 2.25 percent tax. They would not see an increase. For a median-income wage earner in Barberton (making about $30,000 a year), the income tax increase would cost $75 a year, requiring minor adjustments to household budgets. Repairing damage from one pothole could easily cost more.
Misplaced priorities at the Statehouse put much emphasis on reducing state income tax rates to boost economic growth. In balancing the budget, the governor and lawmakers have leaned on reduced spending, local governments among the hardest hit. What Mayor Judge and the council realize is a stronger economy depends more on making long-term investments.
The additional revenue from the income tax increase they have placed on the ballot represents a sound, long-term commitment to the cityís infrastructure, its foundation. An income tax is by far the fairest option. Given the fiscal realities in Washington and Columbus, an increase for Barberton is now the necessary choice.