Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Monroe increase fails

Proposal to raise income tax to 1.5% loses with 52% opposed

By Perry Schaible
Enquirer contributor

MONROE - Voters narrowly defeated a 50 percent income tax increase on Tuesday that was to pay for capital improvements and reduce the city's debt.

According to final, unofficial returns Tuesday night, 573 (52 percent) were opposed to increasing the city's income tax from 1 percent to 1.5 percent, and 527 (48 percent) voted for it.

City officials cut capital improvement projects two years ago when it faced financial problems. In 2003, the budget and staff were reduced by 10 percent.

"The bottom line is we've cut back our operations to the core ... that doesn't leave any money for capital improvements," Finance Director Jay Stewart said before the vote.

Stewart said an income tax increase is more favorable than a property tax and therefore, if the increase request fails, voters will likely see the issue on another ballot. Monroe voters rejected a similar proposed increase in November 2003.

"I would think (council) would look to put it back on as soon as we could, possibly in November," Stewart said.

Monroe, straddling the Butler-Warren county line off Interstate 75, is one of Greater Cincinnati's fastest-growing communities, jumping from 7,135 residents to 8,821, in 2000-2003, according to U.S. Census figures.

City officials estimated that 35 percent to 40 percent of residents would pay a higher tax under Tuesday's proposal. Residents who work elsewhere get credit on the Monroe tax.

Monroe resident Harold Henderson headed to the polls Tuesday to support the tax increase. Henderson, whose office is in Monroe, will be affected.

"We need to increase the income of the community," he said.

The city's budget problems were worsened by problems with internal controls and accounting practices that led to the resignations in 2003 of the city manager and finance director and to reforms.

In Hamilton County, voters in Mount Healthy Tuesday were voting on a 5-year, 5-mill safety levy Tuesday. Results were not available.

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