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Published: Wednesday, 8/18/2004

Income tax may be on Defiance ballot again

DEFIANCE Voters in Defiance are likely to be asked again in November for the same income tax they turned down two weeks ago.

City council is to meet tonight to consider putting the 0.3 percent, five-year income tax back on the ballot, council decided last night. Five council members appeared to support putting the issue on the ballot when asked informally last night.

My preference would have been to come back later, but I feel the need the city has overrides that, Councilman Gary Butler said.

Without the $1.2 million a year the tax was expected to generate, council has said it will consider cutting seven emergency dispatching jobs and five firefighters jobs.

But city council s finance committee chairman said she wants to wait until the May election, allowing council time to make budget cuts and find ways to enhance revenue, such as charging residents for more emergency medical runs.

I think it s a slap in the face to the citizens who took the time and effort to vote in August to come right back in November, Councilman Ellen Upp said.

Council President Charles Beard said he asked for tonight s special meeting, scheduled for 8:30, instead of calling for a vote last night, because the income tax was not on last night s printed agenda and, therefore, he felt the public had not been adequately notified that the issue would come up.

But he also did not have enough votes last night for a suspension of council s rules that would be necessary to put the income tax on the ballot by tomorrow s filing deadline with the Defiance County Board of Elections. To meet that deadline, council would have to suspend its normal rules of reading an ordinance at three meetings before voting and waiting 30 days before it takes effect.

Council needs six votes to bypass that rule. But last night, Councilman Ellen Upp said she would vote against such a suspension of the rules. That would have left the possibility of only five affirmative votes last night from the seven-member council because Councilman Tim Holtsberry, was absent.

The issue of whether to go back on the November ballot with the issue, which failed by about 140 votes out of about 2,600 cast two weeks ago, came out of city council s finance committee with a split recommendation last night.

Mrs. Upp, who is the committee chairman, voted no. Darrell Handy voted yes. The other member of the three-member committee is Mr. Holtsberry who was absent from the committee meeting, which was held immediately before the council meeting.

Mr. Handy said he voted to recommend putting the issue back on the ballot because he remembered when council put it on the August ballot, councilmen had said if it failed in August they would ask again in November.

Mr. Butler said before the council meeting that city residents had told him they did not understand before the August election the cuts that council would consider if the tax request failed. And he said results might be different with a higher voter turnout in November.

He predicted 50 to 60 percent of the city s voters would cast a ballot in the fall, compared to 29 percent two weeks ago.

This will give us a true picture of what the citizens want, he said.

But several council members said they had no idea whether voters would pass the income tax in November.

It s a flip of a coin, Mr. Handy said.



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