Despite the city’s best efforts to inform and educate its residents on the need for additional revenue to support infrastructure repairs, Powell’s ballot measure to raise the city’s income tax rate was voted down by a comfortable margin on Tuesday night. Of the 6,484 votes that were cast, over 59 percent were against the increase.
The measure was seeking 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. At 0.75 percent, Powell’s current income tax rate is among the lowest in the state. The proposed increase, had it been approved, would have seen the rate moved to 1.15 percent, with the tax credit increasing from 0.25 to 0.50 percent.
The decision to include the tax increase on the November ballot stemmed 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 its 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.
Other options besides a tax increase were explored, such as a 4 percent cut across the board for city departments, but such cuts would have still left the city well short of the $2 million needed.
“I’m disappointed for the city because clearly, those tax dollars would have gone to help maintain the city, and I think without those dollars, the infrastructure is going to continue to deteriorate,” Vice Mayor Tom Counts said.
Asked what else the city can do to work with residents on a solution, Counts was unsure, citing the opportunities residents were given to weigh in on this ballot measure leading up to its submission, with few showing up to do so.
Councilman Brian Lorenz pointed to the tax credit as being the significant divider for residents on this issue.
“As I stated numerous times, and despite the proposed amendments I made to the ordinance as presented, there was clearly a number of residents that felt disenfranchised by the credit arrangement as suggested,” Lorenz said in a statement to The Gazette.
“Our residents continually suggested to me that nothing short of a full credit arrangement with succinct and specific funding for capital improvements, as approved in the past, would be acceptable to them. We are now at a place as a community in which we need to come together and find a solution that is representative to the whole of our electorate.”
Counts said he believes getting quality feedback from residents and understanding why they didn’t support the issue are the most important next steps in moving forward toward a solution to the city’s infrastructure needs, which he said are only going to increase.
“We’ve been in this situation for a long time, and nothing is going to change,” Counts said. “We won’t have dollars for infrastructure and things won’t happen. There’s no question in my mind that the situation is only going to get worse.
He added, “We’re not going to wait eight years like we did this time to go back to the voters. We just can’t do that.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.