Columbus Voters Cast Ballots On Two Tax Issues; Columbus Could See First Tax Hike In 30 Years

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Columbus voters head to the polls today (Tuesday) to cast ballots on a couple of local issues: one, a proposed city income tax increase….the other a school levy. Both proposals have sparked fierce debates. WOSU gives a recap of the issues.

Columbus voters will decide today if the city will see its first income tax increase in almost 30 years. Mayor Michael Coleman and other city officials say the quality of life will suffer if the measure fails. Opponents of the proposal say mismanagement is behind the city’s fiscal problems.

This current year the city has had to find some $30 million to balance its budget. Coleman said to restore those cuts and prevent additional reductions, the city needs the $100 million in new revenue the tax increase would bring.

The mayor said if the tax hike does not pass the city will lay off upwards of 600 police officers and firefighters. Both police and fire unions have stepped up in support of the proposal.

“If you feel this year was a tough year for our cuts, they will be viewed as insignificant compared to the cuts that we will face in the future. And it will change our city,” Coleman said.

Republican political consultant Terry Casey opposes the tax increase. He said Coleman and others at city hall have overspent the city’s income for years – on what he calls pet projects like the river front.

“Clearly city hall has not been focused on the basics, so they’re going to try and use scare tactics to force people and do a massive tax hike,” Casey said.

If Issue One passes, a person making $40,000 a year will pay an additional $200 in city income taxes.

Part of Central Ohio will vote on two tax hikes. South-Western City Schools seeks a four-year operating levy. It’s the second time the school system will ask voters to approve the measure. It failed in May by ten points. If the levy passes property owners in the South-Western School District would pay an additional $254 a year for each $100,000 in value.

The Franklin County Board of Elections expects today’s voter turnout will be higher than usual for a special election.