Sunday, February 29, 2004

Leap Day a free day, but not cost-free

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DOWNTOWN - Some might consider the quadrennial observance of Feb. 29 as a free day - an extra date on the calendar to prepare a tax return or campaign for president.

But for the city of Cincinnati, it's not free at all.

The city's budget office estimates that today will cost at least $722,000 - mostly through police and firefighter salaries.

"We're essentially pushing the whole calendar back one day," said Christian Sigman, the manager of the city's Budget and Evaluation Division. "By the end of the year, that extra day catches up with us."

But it would be a leap in logic to say the extra expense will drive up the city's growing budget deficit, because the city will also collect more in taxes.

Property taxes are annual and don't change. But workers who get an extra paycheck in 2004 - those whose weekly payday is a Friday - are paying 2.1 percent earnings tax to the city on that extra paycheck.

Most government budget officers don't bother, considering the 1/365 increase (that's 0.27 percent) to be negligible.

"Agencies are given their annual budget and are expected to live within their budget - whether it's 365 days or 366," said Traci Saliba, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Office of Budget and Management.


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