TALLMADGE — The mayor is considering asking voters to increase the city's income tax by a quarter of a percent, largely to help fund the fire department.
Mayor David G. Kline broached the topic during a recent discussion about the proposed 2019 budget.
To maintain the city’s solid financial footing, Kline said there needs to be a re-examination of how the fire department is funded. Presently, the department is funded by a permanent levy, based on property tax, and billing for emergency medical service. The levy is expected to generate about $1.5 million in 2018, while EMS billings are estimated to total about $435,000 this year. The city bills residents and accepts whatever their insurance pays.
Each year, however, the city has to transfer more money from its general fund to cover an operating deficit in the fire department. There was a $1.27 million transfer from the general fund to the fire department in 2018 and a $1.46 million transfer is anticipated for 2019.
At the same time, Fire Chief Michael Passarelli said there are “some major capital expenses” on the horizon. These include the need to replace a 27-year-old ladder track, at a cost of about $800,000. The ladder truck has a 75-foot capability but the fire chief says, “while it’s real shiny on the outside, it’s real rusty on the inside.”
The mayor says options include transferring more money from the city’s general fund to the fire department, proposing an income tax increase that would affect everyone who works in Tallmadge or proposing a fire levy at a smaller amount that would be additional to the levy already in place.
“I’m pretty convinced that we will go forward with a quarter percent income tax levy [increase] next year,” Kline says. If such an increase would go on the ballot and be approved by voters, it would bump the city income tax to 2.25 percent and generate an additional $1.3 million each year, according to Tallmadge Finance Director Mollie Gilbride.
The city has a permanent 2 percent income tax approved by citizens in 2004. Gilbride estimates actual income tax revenues for 2018 will be about $10.7 million; $11.6 million was the budgeted number. The city is projecting income tax revenues to total $11,337,811 in 2019.
The city’s proposed $32.6 million budget for 2019 is about $500,000 less than the 2018 budget. The council is scheduled to vote on the proposal next month. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7:33 p.m. Dec. 13 in City Council chambers of City Hall at 46 North Ave.
Ellin Walsh can be reached at 330-541-9419, firstname.lastname@example.org or @EllinWalsh_RPC