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Published: 7/11/2001

Toledo fails to get tax levy on ballot

The attempt to renew Toledo's 0.75 percent income tax, which generates $52 million annually, won't appear on the Sept. 11 primary election ballot because city officials failed to file the measure with the Lucas County board of elections before the deadline.

Michael Beazley, clerk of city council, was directed by a council resolution approved June 12 to submit the measure to the elections board by the June 28 filing deadline.

But it never made it from the council clerk's office on Government Center's 21st floor to the election board's office on the building's third floor. “It went into, kind of got dealt into, some other papers - some other paperwork, and was put aside and not processed in a timely fashion,” said Mr. Beazley, a lawyer who was director of the election board from 1983 to 1989 and was a member of the board of elections from 1989 to 1998.

“It's the clerk's responsibility to make sure it gets there,” said Mr. Beazley, a former executive director and a former chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party. “It was my impression it was there. It wasn't, and it is my responsibility,” he said.

Council approved a resolution last night directing Mr. Beazley to file the proposition for the November general election ballot, which is expected to be crowded with levy requests. Money generated by the income tax is split among three sources: a third goes to police and fire protection, a third is given to other city services, and a third goes to capital improvements. It expires July 1.

Voters, at the request of city officials, added the “temporary” tax to the city's permanent 1.5 percent income tax in 1982 and have renewed it every four years since - the last time in the 1997 municipal primary election.

“There's not much difference whether it's on the September [primary] ballot or the November [general election] ballot. It has passed comfortably the last four times. People have gotten used to it and understand it is there to deliver services. The expectation is that they will support it again,” Mr. Beazley said.

If it fails in November, it may again go to voters either in a special election in February, or in the May, 2002, primary election.

Larry Loutzenhiser, deputy director of the board of elections, said a special election in February would cost the city about $136,000.

Mr. Beazley discovered the error when one of his assistants tried without success to file the measure Monday. The city's leadership learned of the blunder yesterday.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said it bothered him because he would have preferred to have the income tax renewal on the September ballot. But council members said they are not concerned because voters have a track record of approving the measure by comfortable margins.

Council President Peter Ujvagi, who preceded Mr. Beazley as Democratic Party chairman, said he was “disappointed that the proper steps were not taken by council staff on a timely basis.”

He said he has “directed council staff to immediately recommend steps to be taken to absolutely assure that all legislation passed by city council will be processed on a timely basis in the future.”

Republican at-large Councilman Gene Zmuda said he was not concerned.

“I think it's more embarrassing than disappointing,” Mr. Zmuda said. “It's a minor thing.”

“I have confidence that the voters of the city can evaluate more than one significant ballot issue per election cycle,” he said. “Remember, this is not its first renewal. I think its pretty clear that if the citizens want to maintain the level of services that they have grown accustomed to, they will approve this.

Tina Skeldon Wozniak of council District 5 echoed Mr. Zmuda's sentiments. “Everybody makes mistakes. The important thing is that the voters get the opportunity to vote on this and understand how important it is,” she said.

The income tax measure will join the race for Toledo mayor, 12 council seats, school board posts, and what the mayor said is likely to be another city money measure to finance construction of a marina district on the east bank of the Maumee River.



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