You can feel it in the air. Everyone is tired of all the bad news beginning with the pandemic. Everyone has been effected by the pandemic in one way or another. To top it off, there is now tax talks yet again here in Barberton, Ohio.
Over the past week, there have been people reaching out about tax chatter they heard. It was not that long ago we were talking about a new tax due to the loss of B&W. It was also around this time that a property tax attempt was stalled because of time constraints. The conversation has been restarted and this is why we are seeing it again.
Many concerns and questions about taxes revolve around our road tax. You can find out more about Issue 8 (Barberton’s road tax by Mayor Judge) by visiting https://www.justin-greer.com/2019/01/14/understanding-issue-8-road-tax-for-barberton-ohio/. In general, issue 8 is a .25% increase on income tax and is in fact being used to match grants and pay for road construction.
So what about this new tax talk in 2020?
Well… First, it is not a rumor. Talks are happening and conversations are taking place. Barberton is in trouble due to the loss of business and even more so now due to the pandemic. Our city is expecting a significant lose of revenue due to job loss, business’s shutting down/leaving, and government restrictions. It’s boils down to simple economics and budgeting. Barberton does not have enough revenue to continue as we are and something is going to have to give.
If you follow me, you more than likely have seen me poke around the idea of how the public feels about a property tax. This is not because I support a new tax of any kind, but rather I want to get a census of how the public feels. Of course, no one wants new taxes however we also have to be real with ourselves. We are going to have to cut something out to maintain our current course.
In the past year we have been hit from all angles for more money. This includes, a gas tax, new metro park levy, utility bill increase, higher property values, continuance of temporary school levies, etc.
What would cuts really look like?
A crossed the board, everyone I talk to wants cuts to happen before they will support any new tax. The question is, what do “cuts” really look like? Literally no one at the admin will talk about the cuts that will most likely take place if we fail to raise taxes. Even when the admin is directly asked, it is like hearing an echo of yourself telling you the same thing you are asking.
Let us not forget what this looked like during the summer of 2019. We made cuts to the jail, city workers, and safety forces when we were preparing for the loss of B&W. Our parks were overgrown, our jail was limited, services provided by the police were cut and layoffs of the Firefighters were on the horizon.
In an email to the Mayor and my colleagues on council, I asked questions. What will it looks like with no street sweeping, leaf pickup, hydrant maintenance, etc? I was told these services are not funded by the general fund thus cutting them would make no difference. I understand that response but it is the workers that provide those services. Without our workers, we have limited services.
What will we get if we vote on a property tax?
Another question I see a lot is, “What will we get with new taxes?“. Again, let’s rip the band aid off. NOTHING. We will get nothing extra unless we raise taxes to a point where they cover services plus more. We will only be able to barely maintain if we do a property tax of 3mil for X years.
Typically, when new taxes are presented it is because they will help. Depending on where one stands on management, they are want or a need but at the end of the day a tax is more money.
Will a new tax help? I am not entirely convinced that a new tax is the solution. We will receive some money from B&W leaving, received some aid from the federal government for the pandemic, passed a budget that indicates nothing is wrong, and continue to see large projects being presented at council. I have not seen a plan to cut and have not seen any hard evidence that we need a new tax other than some figures based off a large company leaving Barberton.
Do I honestly think nothing is wrong? No. Absolutely not, but until I know what cuts will be made, I have no reason to agree with a new tax. If changes in structure and operation can’t be presented as part of the discussion, I will stand firmly against a new tax due to lack of reason.
What we as a city will lose is going to justify a new tax. Explaining even the bad goes a long way to solidify middle ground. Taxing a community that is in hardship right now is not right and in my opinion just shifts the burden more on the backs of the people rather than elected officials.
A resident said “it does not feel like we are all in this together“. This hit me like a brick to the face. All we have is each other in a fragile ecosystem balanced by the understanding of what is good for the whole. When the vision for what is good for the whole is lost, we divide.