Thursday, October 9, 2003

Insurance tax draws seniors' fire

Independence council looking for more revenue

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - Some Independence residents are up in arms about a proposed tax on homeowners and auto insurance.

What: Special meeting of Independence City Council to discuss a proposed $12 per year auto tax. Other tax proposals, including a 5 percent tax on insurance premiums and a hike in the payroll tax rate from 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent, may be discussed at the caucus meeting immediately following.
When: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 20 for special meeting. Caucus meeting follows at 7 p.m.
Where: Independence Senior and Community Center, 2001 Jack Woods Way.
Opponents, led by resident JoAnn Cobble, say a 5 percent insurance tax would be a hardship on seniors and residents on fixed incomes. More than a dozen people spoke against the proposed increase at Monday's Independence City Council meeting. The city marquee advertised the meeting as a chance to "hear the truth about the taxes."

"We're not an Edgewood," Cobble said. "We're not a Villa Hills. We're not a Union. We're a very modest community with very hard-working, blue collar workers. ... We have seniors that are just barely making ends meet on the pension they get.''

The insurance tax is one of three possible tax increases that Independence officials are considering. They want to ensure that city services, including police protection and street repairs, keep pace with the demands of one of Kentucky's fastest-growing cities, Mayor Chris Moriconi said.

"If you go by population and how many police officers we have, we're about four cops short,'' Moriconi said. "Sometimes, on certain shifts, there are two officers on duty, and that's not enough. It can take a cop 30 minutes to go from the east to the west side of town.''

At a special meeting on Oct. 20, council will discuss whether to impose a $12-a-year auto tax. That proposal was tabled Monday for more information. City officials also are considering the insurance tax, which would take effect next July, and a possible increase in the city's payroll tax on Jan. 1 from 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent. Council is expected to decide Nov. 3 which, if any, of the three tax increases to levy.

"Council's not doing this to win a popularity contest,'' Moriconi said. "They're doing what has to be done. I think at the end of the day, one of the three will pass."

Independence is one of seven Northern Kentucky cities that doesn't levy an insurance premium tax, according to the Kentucky League of Cities. Others are Crestview Hills, Edgewood, Fairview, Kenton Vale, Union and Latonia Lakes. Most cities that levy an insurance tax have rates between 5 and 8 percent, but rates range from 3 to 12 percent, said Dag Ryen, director of research for the Kentucky League of Cities.

Independence officials estimate the insurance tax would generate an additional $659,000 a year, while the payroll tax would raise $218,000 annually.

Moriconi said that he has asked City Attorney Jed Deters to research whether seniors could be exempt from an insurance tax.

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer .com

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