Tuesday, October 08, 2002

NCH improvements tied to higher tax

Police, fire service top concerns

By Angela T. Koenig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NORTH COLLEGE HILL - Improving fire and police protection and providing more space for city workers are the goals of a proposed increase in the city's earnings tax.

        Voters will decide on a half-percentage-point increase on Nov. 5.

        The earnings tax now is 1 percent. If passed, the increase to 1.5 percent would affect residents and nonresidents who work in the city. The increase would generate an estimated $650,000 annually. Officials say that is necessary to make improvements to city services.

        Safety Service Director Jerry Thamann said the city needs about $300,000 annually to staff the fire department on a 24-hour basis. The department is now staffed 11 hours, Monday through Friday. On-call personnel fill the off-hours and there is increasing difficulty with response times, the safety service director said.

        Another $130,000 annually, he said, would allow for hiring two additional full-time police officers. The department lost two full-time officers this year because of attrition, and budget cuts meant they could not be replaced, he said.

        Remaining funds would go toward expansion of the city's physical plant by relocating the police department and expanding the administrative offices.

        “We have a real problem with space at City Hall. The police department is operating in the same space that it did when it was built 40 years ago,” Mr. Thamann said.

        The need for additional funds, said City Auditor Nick Link, stems from state and federal budget cuts.

        “There are sources of income that we no longer have,” the auditor said, adding that the city also will lose about $400,000 annually when the inheritance tax stops in 2005.

        The two years of remaining inheritance tax are still needed to pay off bond debt and purchase new equipment, said Mr. Thamann.

        “We won't have a surplus,” the safety service director said. “We did not do any capital equipment purchases for any department this year, and we need to get that rolling again.”

        The city's last earnings tax rate increase was in 1968. All three officials said that council already has the power - simply by ordinance - to remove a half percent earnings tax credit, which would generate about $350,000 annually.

        “By passing this issue we will be having nonresidents of NCH assist greatly with additional income. Whereas, if we take away the credit, it would only affect residents,” the auditor said.

        Informational meetings will be held every Wednesday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1646 W. Galbraith Road, until Nov. 5.


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