Jackson City Council has taken the first steps to place a 1.5 percent city income tax issue on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

During a special-session meeting held Monday evening, June 29, Council took the first of three readings on an ordinance and a resolution to place the income tax issue before the citywide electorate. Council passed motions to adopt the two related pieces of legislation, but is expected to have two more readings before taking a final vote next month to actually approve the measures. At this point, there appears to be no opposition on Council to doing so.

If approved, the 1.5 percent income tax would provide additional revenue which would be used for “the purposes of the street and sidewalk repairs and/or replacement, streets and sidewalks, and for the maintenance or construction of other city infrastructure, the demolition of unsafe buildings, and general operations and services of the city, including the police department.”

If approved, collections of the income tax would begin Jan, 1, 2021, and would continue for a period of five years. Both city residents and non-residents who work inside the city limits would be subject to paying the tax.

After the meeting, Jackson Mayor Randy Evans told The Telegram the income tax would generate an estimated $2.25 million a year.

During recent Council meetings, Evans warned Council that the city’s General Fund faces huge projected deficits after this year due mainly to revenue streams which have been lost or are declining. Based on these negative financial projections, the General Fund budget will go into the red in 2021 and will end the year with a $724,554 deficit, which would continue to grow in succeeding years, if there are no course corrections.

Evans believes the added revenue from the income tax will stabilize funding for the police department and avoid any more personnel cuts as the numbers of officers have been reduced by almost half since 2019. As proposed, the income tax would also provide a designated source of funding for work on deteriorating streets, sidewalks and infrastructure as well as demolishing dilapidated and unsafe buildings. The city has been extremely limited in addressing these projects because of a lack of funding.

During Council’s June 22 meeting, Evans made his official pitch to Council in support of the income tax. He requested that Council either vote to place the income-tax issue on the ballot or impose the income tax on its own.

While there has been very little discussion on the income-tax topic other than from Evans, it appears Council is on board with the mayor -- at least, to let the citizens decide the fate of the income-tax issue. There has not been a hint of opposition publicly voiced from anyone on Council regarding the need for an income tax or the prospect of placing it on the ballot.

Referring to the five-year term of the income tax, Evans expressed confidence that Council will be very pleased with the progress and improvements which will take place in the city due to the infusion of the new income-tax revenue.

“If Council doesn’t like it, you can remove it – and this town knows how to remove it,” Evans commented, referring to past rejections of the income tax by the local electorate. “But, I know you will like it. A lot needs to be done in this town and I want to do it.”

At the June 22 meeting, Evans remarked that one of the attractive aspects of a city income tax is that a great majority of the revenue would actually come from non-residents. He noted that when the city had an income tax in 2018, it generated $506,462, but only $48,000 was actually paid by Jackson city residents.

Another related issue to be decided is whether the city will allow a credit to taxpayers who are already paying a municipal income tax elsewhere. As currently written, the Jackson income-tax ordinance would not allow for a credit, but there was some concern voiced from Council about taxpayers facing double taxation. Councilwoman Debbie Biggs asked City Auditor Brett Reed if he could check to see how other municipalities deal with this issue. Reed said he could check with the Regional Income Tax (RITA), which administrates many of the municipal income taxes in Ohio.

Evans said he would consider amending this portion of the ordinance to allow for a credit and told The Telegram after the meeting that a partial credit of three-fourths of a percent could be his ultimate suggestion.

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Cemetery Levy Approved

In a separate action at the June 29 meeting, Council unanimously approved two emergency resolutions related to taking the necessary steps to place a 1.5-mill, five-year renewal levy for cemetery operations on the Nov. 3 ballot. Immediate action was necessary to meet an Aug. 5 filing deadline at the Jackson County Elections Board office.

First Ward Councilman Ryan Peters commented on the overall situation at the city-operated Fairmount Cemetery and the widespread need for repairs, in reference to 13 buildings, including mausoleums. However, he acknowledged there was no city plan currently in place to address those needs or even the money to pay for them and that it was necessary to go ahead with the renewal levy due to the impending filing deadline.

Councilwoman Biggs referenced the money the city received from AEP Ohio for the purchase of cemetery land needed for the new electric substation, which had previously been designated for paving cemetery streets.

Only a portion of this money has been used and Biggs wondered if this money could be used instead to address other needs in the cemetery. The designated use of these funds from AEP Ohio was tied to a previous ordinance passed by the previous Council. City Attorney Joe Kirby stated he would look at the possibility of using these funds for other than the intended initial purpose.