Thursday, October 14, 2004

Middletown streets on ballot

Income tax would rise to 1.75% for repairs if approved; retirees exempt

By Perry Schaible
Enquirer contributor

MIDDLETOWN - City leaders say they need an income tax increase to pay for a badly needed streets program in this industrial city.

If approved Nov. 2, the city's 1.5 percent income tax would rise to 1.75 percent.

"We have very limited capital improvement funds," said Chief Administrative Assistant Craig Heimbuch.

"This is really the best chance Middletown has for a street program."

Residents will pay $25 more for every $10,000 of gross income, Heimbuch said.

Mayor Bob Wells said the city's streets have deteriorated and budget shortfalls have made it difficult to find funding for repairs.

"This is the only hope (the residents) have of their streets being fixed, and I hope they know that," Wells said.

He said if voters approve the increase, council will pass an ordinance stating the funds collected can be spent only on streets. The increase would be in effect for 10 years and generate an estimated $2.9 million annually.

Wells said it could also help the city secure federal and state grants, and could bring in as much as $2 million a year in matching funds. About 7 percent of Middletown's streets would undergo repairs each of the 10 years the extra tax would be in effect.

"You can't expect people to come here to live in Middletown if it looks like we just don't care," Wells said.

People who work and live in Middletown will be affected by the increase, but retirement income is not taxed.

Resident John Knapp said he will likely support the increase.

"Some of the streets here are in pretty bad shape," he said.

But Lushelle Temple said she feels residents in the community are overtaxed.

"I just think that they can make cuts other places and quit taxing the working people," Temple said.

City officials have cut $4 million, or 13 percent, from the operating budget. The city stopped the leaf collection program and cut several full-time positions.

An informational session on the income tax increase will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Rusk Senior Citizen Center, 140 N. Verity Parkway.


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