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Springfield to answer residents’ questions ahead of May tax vote

The city of Springfield will hold forums later this month, a few weeks before the proposed income tax increase headed to the polls on May 2.

Springfield had planned to hold the first of three forums held on Thursday, but it was cancelled due to low turnout. City leaders expected low attendance due to Thursday’s inclement weather, City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said.

MORE DETAILS: Audit says Springfield needs income tax hike, must study consolidation

The forums will include presentations about both the city’s financial status and the upcoming tax issue. Last year the Community Financial Committee recommended more public outreach, he said.

“The city commission’s goal is to be as educational as we can,” Bodenmiller said. “We decided to do these forums to tell people about our exact situation and our budget issues.”

Two forums will be held later this month from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 19 and 10 to 11 a.m. April 27, both at the City Hall Forum, 76 E. High St.

The city projects generating $38.4 million in general fund revenues this year. However the city estimates spending about $39 million, leaving about a $600,000 deficit.

RELATED: Ohio Auditor: Springfield under fiscal stress

Springfield has had many positive developments recently, including Topre America’s announcement last month it will invest $55 million at the Champion City Business Park after acquiring a contract to build high-strength steel parts for Honda, bringing 85 jobs in a 146,000-square-foot facility.

“We’re on the verge of trying to thrive again,” Bodenmiller said. “If the city falls into financial disrepair, if we go into fiscal emergency, if we can’t pay our bills and we have to make cuts and we can’t fix the streets, we’re going to see a decline at such a turning point potentially.”

Springfield residents will vote again on an income tax increase this spring, months after a similar proposal was rejected at the polls.

The 5½-year income tax increase will be placed on the May 2 ballot as Issue 1. The income tax rate in Springfield would increase from 2 percent to 2.4 percent if approved by voters. A similar proposal was rejected by 227 votes in November.

If approved, the tax would generate an additional $6.7 million annually through 2022. For a worker making $30,000 a year, the tax would cost an additional $10 per month.

DETAILS: Springfield income tax increase goes back to the polls in May

“It’s critical to us,” Bodenmiller said. “We’re falling behind our competition, which are our neighboring communities and cities. If we want Springfield to be strong, we have to have revenue to run our operation.”

Since the defeat at the polls last year, the city has eliminated 10 positions, including five through attrition and another five through layoffs, he said.

About $2 million of the income tax increase would go toward a street improvement fund. It would also allow the city to reopen Fire Station No. 5 and the police substation on Johnny Lytle Avenue, both of which closed on Jan. 1 due to budget cuts.

MORE: Committee forms to oppose Springfield income tax increase

The rest would pay for six new police officers for a Safe Streets Task Force, a special police unit to combat violent crime and heroin abuse.

Last year a group campaigned against the tax increase, including erecting yard signs telling people to vote No on the issue.

The group said the tax hike would only further decrease the population, and make the city less competitive at recruiting jobs and encouraging people to live here. The city also asked for more money than it needs to balance its budget, the group argues.

The Citizens for Responsible Springfield Government is still active on Facebook. Treasurer and local attorney Dan Harkins couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday evening. Harkins unsuccessfully ran for city commission in 2013.


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