Thursday, June 17, 2004

Norwood tax levy a tough sell job

Campaigners sought for 14-mill city issue

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NORWOOD - Several of the 26 people who attended a meeting this week to organize a campaign to support the city of Norwood's 14-mill tax levy aren't sure they will vote for the levy, much less work for its approval.

"It's a little bit much," Norwood resident Mike Clemons said of the 14 mills. "I need to know how my money is going to be spent."

Norwood officials understand that thousands of city residents have the same "show-me" attitude toward the levy that Clemons has.

"We're asking for a lot of money," said Norwood Treasurer Tim Molony, who is temporarily heading the levy campaign. "It's up to us to get the word out about how we decided on 14 mills and how we're going to spend it."

Most of the people who attended the campaign organizational meeting Tuesday night were city employees and council members.

The city, facing a $3.5 million deficit, has placed a 14-mill, five-year levy on the Aug. 3 ballot. It would generate $5.2 million a year and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $418 more in annual taxes.

Norwood is on track to run out of money in August or September. Banks have agreed to provide loans to carry the city through the end of the year, Molony said. But unless Norwood's current revenue and spending patterns don't change, he said, the city's deficit will grow to $25 million in five years.

Clemons said he came to the campaign meeting at the Donald E. Prues Community Centerto get more information about the levy. He's a member of a 3-year-old group called Citizens for a Better Norwood, which hasn't decided whether to support the levy.

"We're just trying to find out what the money is going to be used for," Clemons said.

Lynn Ellis, a lifelong Norwood resident who also attended the campaign meeting, said afterward that she will vote against the levy.

"It is so hard for most of us because we love our city so much," she said. "I don't think there are many who live here that can pay this much taxes."

Molony said he didn't expect a bigger turnout for the campaign meeting.

"It's kind of early," he said. "Citizens in general want to know more about the levy before they decide whether to get involved."

Molony assigned certain people Tuesday to head various aspects of the campaign, such as yard signs, informational pamphlets, election-day poll coverage, fund-raising and half-hour cable access TV programs explaining the levy's impact on each city department's budget and services.

To give the levy campaign more credibility, Molony wants someone who's not an elected city official to direct it.

The levy campaign fund, controlled by a political action committee, has $1,445 in its account. Molony said the campaign needs at least $3,000 more to pay for yard signs and pamphlet mailings and drops.


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