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Published: Wednesday, 3/7/2012

0.75 percent tax renewed despite sluggish economy

Levy in effect since 1982 will generate $51M in '12

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mayor Mike Bell says the income tax 'is just too important' to the city's survival. Mayor Mike Bell says the income tax 'is just too important' to the city's survival.
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Sluggish economy notwithstanding, Toledoans opted Tuesday to keep paying an extra 0.75 percent tax on their incomes, as they have done for the past 30 years.

On the ballot as Issue 1, the tax-renewal request got solid support, garnering approval from 57 percent of voters.

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The approval allows the city to continue levying the tax for another four years. Although still considered "temporary," the tax has been in effect since 1982 and makes up part of the total 2.25 percent income tax paid by Toledo workers.

"We definitely need this to keep the positive direction of our city," Mayor Mike Bell said as the first vote counts came in Tuesday night. "It is just so important to the survival of our city."

The levy will generate about $51 million in 2012, about 20 percent of the city's annual revenue, and nearly the entire annual budget of the Toledo Fire Department. The city relies on the income generated to pay for many day-to-day services, including safety forces and some infrastructure spending.

Mayor Bell, city council president Joe McNamara, and finance chairman George Sarantou, who have warned repeatedly in recent weeks of dire consequences if the issue failed, expressed a collective sigh of relief as the results came in and thanked Toledoans for support.

"I just want to say thank you to all the voters … supporting city services and supporting our hard working police officers and firefighters who put their lives on the line to keep the city safe," Mr. McNamara said. "The three quarter-percent has been with us for a long time and it's necessary to maintain the level of services people expect."

Mr. Sarantou added: "I think everyone realizes the importance of the three-quarter percent and the role it plays, especially in public safety."

Given the importance of the tax, the mayor pushed to get the issue on the ballot early in the year so that, if it failed, he could put it before voters again in November. The thought of the tax failing did cross his mind, he acknowledged Tuesday.

"I think that there's always a bit of concern when you know that you're not in control of the outcome," he said. "All you can do is hope and pray that you were able to get the message out and that people understood it."

The renewal also allows the city to maintain flexibility in how it distributes the tax revenue between its general fund and capital improvements program.

Normally, income from the 0.75 percent tax is divided into thirds, set aside for capital improvements, safety forces, and general services. Since 2010, however, the city has been using some of the capital improvements portion to plug deficits in the general fund budget. In 2012, the Bell administration plans to allocate $12 million of capital improvements monies to the general fund.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: cbarrett@theblade.com or 419-724-6272.



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