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Published: Friday, 6/6/2003

Northwood debates levy to raise income tax

Northwood City Council, hoping for input on a proposed income tax increase to pay for a new fire station, heard from only one person during a public comment session held prior to its committee of the whole meeting last night.

Council took the first of several steps on May 22 to pass an ordinance that would put a five-year, 0.25 percent increase before voters in November.

If approved, it would hike the city's income tax to 1.75 percent and raise an additional $3 million over the five years. The money would be used to replace the city's fire station on West Andrus Road with a new one on Tracy Road. It also would fund renovations to the police department as well as street repairs.

Brian Dempsey of West Andrus Road said the tax increase should be put in front of the voters.

“I think this is a good thing,” Mr. Dempsey said. “Give the public a chance to decide if they want to pay the extra money.”

The new fire station would cost about $1.2 million. The remaining money raised would be used to pay for equipment, David Gallaher, city council president, said.

Seventy percent of the $3 million would be used for the fire station; 20 percent would fund road repairs, and 10 percent would pay for police department capital improvements.

Northwood Fire Chief Thomas Pack said the current station on West Andrus does not meet the department's needs.

“We need it now and for future projected growth,” Chief Pack said. “The fire apparatus we have is too large for the building we have now. It's a safety issue.”

During its committee of whole meeting, council members debated possible amendments to the ordinance and whether to approve the legislation.

Councilman Richard Radocy suggested the ordinance be amended so 50 percent would be allocated for the new fire department. The remaining money could be divided between the police department and road repairs, Mr. Radocy added.

Councilman Charles Kozina said he opposed building a new station, in part because residents may be facing higher taxes from the state soon.

“The economy is very poor right now - the lowest it has been in 10 years,” Mr. Kozina said.

Councilman Jim Barton said he was not against building a fire station, but suggested the city issue bonds to finance its construction.

“I don't think we need to tax the people,” Mr. Barton said. “If it fails with the voters, we can't turn around and bond it out at that point ... that's sneaky.”

Councilman Tim Reardon said he preferred to let the voters decide on the tax increase.

“Bonds are still taxpayer money,” he said. “What it comes down to for me is who decides to spend it: The public or [council].”

Mr. Gallaher scheduled a second public comment session for June 26.



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