Northwood Mayor Mark Stoner said there would be no further budget cuts, despite the defeat of a proposed .25 income tax increase for three years at the polls last Tuesday.
The measure, defeated by a vote of 1,088, or 66.42 percent, to 550, or 33.58 percent, would have raised the income tax from 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent had it passed. The additional revenue would have provided funds for capital improvements, capital reinvestment and operating expenses.
Stoner had made drastic cuts in personnel and services in the last year and a half as a result of reduced tax revenue collected by the city due to the poor economy.
But revenue in the last four months has slowly been rising for the city, reversing a downward trend in income tax collections for the last year.
“We’ve already done a lot of the cuts,” Stoner told The Press on Wednesday. In October, income tax revenue was up 2.5 percent compared to last October.
“It would be nice if it was higher, but this makes four months we’ve been on the positive side. If things stay like this, we should be okay. That’s what I’m hoping. We’ve done enough cuts, we ought to be able to get by,” said Stoner.
Council during the summer debated the need for an income tax increase, as well as other options, including charging residents for refuse collection, and reducing or eliminating tax credits to residents who work outside the city.
Council rejected the latter two options, and approved placing the income tax increase on Tuesday’s ballot.
Stoner said he hopes council will not consider implementing a refuse fee or reducing or eliminating tax credits, since council, and not voters, can make those decisions.
“I don’t want to see council implement a garbage tax fee. We proposed the income tax increase because we wanted residents to have a say in whether or not we should raise taxes,” said Stoner. “I don’t want to see council implement a garbage tax fee and tax credit elimination, since residents don’t have a say in it. Voters did not want to see an income tax increase, and that would have affected fewer people. Why would they want to see something implemented that would have more of an effect on people? Voters said no and they mean no.”
With rising income tax collections, and news that Norplas Industries, Inc., on Caple Blvd. would be expanding and creating 300 new jobs, the city will maintain operations at the current level, said Stoner.
“We’re not flush with cash, but I think we’ve made enough cuts that we’ll be okay. If things get worse, we’ll have to look at something. There’s not much more we can cut without affecting residential services. We’re working on a pretty conservative budget. We’ve never been wasteful with our money. Employees don’t get rich,” he said.
The budget for next year is smaller than this year’s budget, he said.
Next year, a police officer will be hired to replace one who is leaving. The streets department will also replace an employee, said Stoner.
A cleaning service that the city discontinued last year will be brought back part-time, he said.
And some roads will be improved, he added.
“Usually, we do four to five streets in a good year,” said Stoner. But due to the city’s financial concerns, only two were improved, including Maryland Place and the intersection of Bradner and Curtice was widened.