Friday, February 09, 2007

The Mayor's Proposed Akron Income Tax Increase

It's Friday night and I really want to rock out, but instead I've got taxes on my mind. The mayor of Akron is calling for an increase in income tax. It would be about $33/per 10k in income.

The mayor wants more cops -- that was the leading point of his tax plea as reported in today's ABJ. Then a list of other items, all very non-specific:

"The proposed 0.33 percentage point increase, expected to generate an additional $17 million annually, also would help replace aging vehicles, fund after-school uses of new school buildings, boost the capital budget and fuel more economic development."
My first thought was reflexive -- ouch! I can't afford it. My second reaction was "No, not more cops." Americans always want more cops and more jails, rather than finding what -- over time -- turns an innocent baby into a criminal who needs policing and jailing.

Then I began to read all the citizens postings on the ABJ article comments section. This topic garnered copious amounts of word-slinging today. There are the Love It or Leave It people vs the Hated It and Left people. The usual Won't Pay Any New Taxes Ever people are smashing heads with The What's In It For Me people. It got way too emotional in the Comments section, so I went back to the original article and read it more carefully.

Plusquellic certainly made good logical points in his arguments. He is also one gutsy politician --he and his entire Democratic city council are all running for re-election on the same ballot! The mayor makes it clear that federal tax breaks will compensate for some of the increase in local taxes. (Bush's tax cuts in essence mean that state and local governments will be paying more for services. It's the old shell game.) According to the Beacon, Plusquellic

"...argued that the city has cut costs and reduced the city's payroll in the last 10 years by 400 full-time jobs from 2,673 full time employees to 2,242.

``We have not raised taxes for the operation of city government in 26 years, a record that I think we can all be proud of,'' Plusquellic said.

``But today I stand before you and tell you we cannot be the city we want to be, we cannot be the city that we need to be, we cannot continue to compete without asking each of you to help reinvest in our future by giving back locally just a small portion of what you used to send to the IRS in Washington.''

Damn, I really wanted to go with my initial response -- No new taxes. But how can I say no to improving living conditions in the city that I freely choose to live in? I can feel myself being persuaded, but--

There's still the annoyance factor of the push for more cops and the nebulous list of new needs. What does it mean to "fuel more economic development" and what specific programming is going into our new after-hour community learning centers?

I'd like more specifics before I say OK to this new tax. In the same article, the ABJ points out that our sewer rates are going to increase by 7% just as soon as our City Council stops dithering about it.
"The city asked for the surcharge to fund a specific project: stopping the overflow of sewage during heavy rains into the Ohio & Erie Canal in downtown Akron."
Yes, I think we need to stop the overflow of sewage into our canal system that we have been spending lots of money to fix up into a recreational attraction (see photo above). Cleaning up the messes from the 19th and 20th centuries are going to increase our tax burdens over the coming years, whether we like it or not. It's either fix the sewers or wallow in the disease-bearing muck.

To conclude my meditation on the proposed new tax increase, I'd like to see some of it go to the higher things in life, something to take our minds away from the gutters and sewers. Mr Mayor, if you want my vote for sure, put some of the revenue into a fund for developing and maintaining the arts in Akron. Remember, the arts are what make life worth living!

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