With election day just a few weeks away, Powell residents will soon decide the fate of the proposed income tax and tax credit increase before them on the November ballot. The measure, which city council voted onto the ballot in August, seeks to raise Powell’s income tax for the first time in 27 years, while also increasing the tax credit for residents who work outside of Powell from 0.25 to 0.50 percent.
At 0.75 percent, Powell’s current income tax rate is among the lowest in the state. The proposed increase would see the rate moved to 1.15 percent.
The decision to include the tax increase on the upcoming ballot stems from the recommendation of the Citizens Financial Review Task Force, an 18-member committee of residents who were assembled in January to conduct a comprehensive study of the city’s financial status and make suggestions for future capital improvements. Three subcommittees — Capital Needs, Expenditure Review and Revenues — were created to offer a thorough review.
Over the course of several months, the task force found there is a “shortfall” in city funding for infrastructure maintenance, for a variety of reasons, including the rapid growth of Powell and the reduction of Local Government Funding and the Estate Tax. In their presentation of findings to Powell City Council in June, the committee suggested an additional $2 million in revenue is needed for the city to keep up with future infrastructure repairs and improvements.
“For nearly 30 years, the city has relied on newly constructed, developer-built infrastructure to serve our community,” Task Force Chairman Richard Cline said during the June presentation. “New construction meant that Powell didn’t have to spend much money to maintain that infrastructure. The truth is the city has never budgeted the full amount necessary to pay for the infrastructure maintenance.”
He went on to say, “The task force and the city recognized the city cannot continue to provide safe and secure infrastructure under our current course of action,” Cline said.
The task force’s unanimous conclusion and recommendation to the seven council members was to ask residents to approve an increase on the income tax to generate the additional funding needed. Other options were discussed, including a 4 percent cut in every city department. However, given the strain the cuts would put on the city, particularly the police department, and the fact those cuts wouldn’t produce the necessary $2 million, the committee decided a tax increase would be the only feasible solution.
To assure residents the additional tax revenue will be used for the correct purpose, the ballot measure stipulates at least 25 percent of all tax revenue must be used towards future infrastructure maintenance and improvements.
The City of Powell held a public forum on Sept. 25 to discuss the fall ballot measure in an attempt to educate the public on what the measure is asking for and why it is needed. A second forum will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 30, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Powell Municipal Building’s council chambers at 47 Hall St. Members of the task force will be on hand to show a presentation detailing how the city generates money and how that money is used on pressing issues such as road maintenance. Following the presentation, there will be a Q&A session.
For anyone who is interested in the discussions but not able to attend, the forum will also be live streamed on the City of Powell Local Government Facebook page.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.