Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Independence mulls new taxes in face of $600K shortfall

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - After months of discussion, city officials will decide on Nov. 3 which, if any, of three controversial tax proposals to levy.

Independence officials have said a tax increase is necessary to cover a $610,826 shortfall and to ensure that police protection and street repairs keep pace with demands in one of Kentucky's fastest-growing cities.

A proposed 5 percent tax on homeowners and auto insurance is expected to generate $659,681 a year, the most of the three possible tax increases. Opponents, led by resident JoAnn Cobble, say the insurance tax would be a hardship on seniors and residents on fixed incomes.

Other options include raising the payroll tax rate on Jan. 1 from 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent, which is expected to bring in $218,353 a year. A proposed $12-a-year auto tax would generate $154,055. With delinquencies, that number would be closer to $150,000, Kenton County Clerk Bill Aylor told Independence officials.

Council member Jim Bushong said all three are viable options, but he added he wants more information on "what would bring in what'' before casting a vote.

"I think everybody's going into this with an open mind,'' Bushong said. "I don't think anything's chiseled in granite.''

Council member Mary Pat Behler said she also wants more information before deciding, which, if any tax, to support.

"(Monday) night, we heard a lot from the residents,'' Behler said. "One of the things I haven't heard yet is feedback from employers. I'm interested in finding out which tax would be more palatable for them.

"When you look at all three options, none of them is perfect,'' she said.

"The only one I'm against is the insurance tax,'' said Council member Donna Yeager. "I think it's going to hurt a lot of parents with teenaged (drivers). It'll make it hard on seniors with low, fixed incomes. If we have to have a tax, I'd favor one of the other two or both.''


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