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Published: Monday, 10/29/2001

Poll points to triumph of income tax renewal

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

A Toledo tax measure that generates one-third of the city's general fund revenue appears headed for easy renewal in the Nov. 6 general election, a new poll shows.

A survey commissioned by The Blade and WTVG-TV Channel 13 and conducted by Zogby International of Utica, N.Y., shows that nearly four of every five respondents - 78 percent - favor the continuance of a 0.75 percent income tax for four more years.

The tax raises more than $50 million per year for the city. It is used to pay for basic services, including police, fire fighting, garbage collection, and street repair, among other things.

The poll, including 606 interviews with likely voters in Toledo conducted Oct. 25-27, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

John Zogby, president of the polling firm, said the widespread support for the tax measure shows that "citizens have strong confidence in their city leaders and are pleased with its current operation."

The poll contains further proof of voter contentment: 78 per cent of likely voters said they believe Toledo is moving in the right direction, a figure identical to a Zogby poll taken two weeks before the Sept. 11 primary election.

Mr. Zogby said the consistent satisfaction with the city's direction shows the electorate has made a full recovery from the startling primary Election Day terror attacks in New York and Washington.

The tax measure finds favor even among those who say the city is moving in the wrong direction, though the margin is much tighter - 53 percent of those support the measure, while 47 percent oppose it.

Among those who say the city is moving in the right direction, 84 percent support the tax renewal.

There is no organized opposition to the measure.

"That's wonderful," said Toledo police Chief Michael Navarre, a co-chairman of the pro-levy campaign. "It certainly indicates a level of approval that shows we are doing something right,'' he said.

But, he said, "I certainly don't want to be overconfident.''

Mr. Navarre said there has been some talk among city officials about asking voters to make the measure permanent. He said he remains unsure that is a good idea.

"A lot of voters like to have that tax to vote on. It gives them something to hang on to if they get dissatisfied with the city,'' he said.

The levy's proposed renewal occurs at a time when the city is facing increasing costs to ensure public safety against possible terrorist attacks.

Chief Navarre said he is concerned that costs to guarantee the safety of the city's water treatment plant and public buildings downtown could eat into Toledo's budget.

He said he looks forward to working with the next Toledo mayor and council to "set some long-term goals'' in the area of public safety.

City fire Chief Michael Bell and businessman Robert Savage also are co-chairman of the levy committee.

Ray Kest and Jack Ford, the two Toledo mayoral candidates, support passage of the measure, calling it "crucial" to the city's operation, especially at a time when tax revenue to the city has fallen by more than $3 million. Adjustments made to city programs earlier this year have kept the budget in balance. Recent financial forecasts by city officials indicated the city budget will need no more cuts this year.

The tax renewal was last before voters in 1997, when it passed easily.



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