Sarantou: The case for renewing the 3/4 percent taxWritten by George Sarantou | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1983, Toledo voters passed the first 3/4 percent income tax. Back then, the City of Toledo employed 2,963 people. The unemployment rate was 10.6 percent. The population was 354,635 and the city was comprised of 84 square miles. The three-quarter percent brought in $16.5 million and the total 2.25 percent paid for police, fire, refuse and most other general fund departments.
Fast forward to 2012 — the City of Toledo employs 167 fewer employees than it did in 1983. The unemployment rate is 8.7 percent for 2012. The population is 287,208 and the city is still comprised of 84 square miles. The three-quarter percent brings in $51.5 million and does not quite pay for the fire department, which has a budget of $60.2 million. The police budget for 2012 is $73.4 million.
Nonemployed seniors did not pay the 3/4 percent tax then and still do not today. It is not paid on property tax, pensions, social security, dividends, interest, annuities or capital gains. The three-quarter percent is paid on earned income only.
This means more than 55 percent of Toledo does not pay income tax. The 2.25 percent income tax rate has not increased since 1983. Most other levies have sought increases; schools, library and the zoo have all increased their millage requests throughout the years and Toledo has remained constant.
Toledo City Council, along with the administration of Mayor Mike Bell, has made public safety a priority. Therefore, though there have been cutbacks in general fund jobs due to the loss of solid waste and retirements, upcoming classes are being formed to make sure public safety can keep in step and properly protect the citizens.
Currently we have a police class that will graduate 40 officers this May. A fire class of 30 will begin this December. Additionally, another police class of 40 will begin this September. These classes will help us to increase our vital safety forces. However, we need additional police and fire classes in 2013 due to many upcoming retirements.
In the general fund only, employees in the City of Toledo are now 1,596; in 2002 it was 2,126. This is a reduction of 530 employees. Public safety comprises 1,351 general fund employees or 85 percent of the general fund employees. That means the other 25 departments including human resources, building inspection, finance, council, economic development, parks and taxation operates on 15 percent of the general fund budget. In all 25 departments there are only 245 employees; this for a population of 287,208.
On March 6, voters of Toledo will decide whether their mayor and Council have been effective stewards of the treasury during the greatest recession since the depression. We have not raised the income tax rate and we have reduced our employees significantly.
Today, Toledo has 9.1 employees per 1,000 people compared to Akron, (10.4) Columbus (14.1), Dayton (10.6), Cincinnati (17.4) and Cleveland (21.8). Our bond ratings have held steady and Moody’s and Standard & Poors have upgraded Toledo from a negative outlook to stable.
These are historically very challenging economic times but Toledo is much stronger today and our economic future is improving. Jeep, Powertrain, Hollywood Casino, the University of Toledo and many other businesses are leading our growth. With your support of the renewal of the 3/4 percent we can continue to make Toledo a great place to live, work and raise a family.
George Sarantou is an at-large councilman for the City of Toledo. He is chairman of its HR, IT and Finance committee. Email him at email@example.com or call him at (419) 245-1050.