WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – Warren City Council’s debate over whether to place a half percent income tax increase on November’s ballot went on so long, that it will have to be finished later in the week.
All ten council members were at the meeting Tuesday, which ended up lasting an hour and a half.
Warren Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said that the tax increase would bring $3.5 million to $4 million in additional funds to the city.
“The intended use of that money would be…first and foremost, bringing our safety forces up to adequate staffing levels.”
One million dollars would also be used for a road maintenance program, and $1.3 million would be used to eliminate a projected 2017 year-end deficit.
The focus Tuesday night was on police and fire.
“We’re talking a range of anywhere from eight to ten, maybe 12 officers laid off next year, which is going to completely devastate the police department,” said Police Chief Eric Merkel.
Fire Chief Ken Nussle said the department is “running on luck right now, and luck makes everybody dumb.”
Councilman John Brown questioned the need for the tax, asking Mayor Doug Franklin to detail the cuts he claims to have made so far.
Franklin started with the elimination of 81 employees.
“At the bargaining table, we’ve had wage freezes over the last two contracts, over the last three contracts basically, and also historically, concessionary bargaining. That’s real savings,” he said.
Councilwoman Helen Rucker said they’ve shown citizens that they can be trusted with money and that they will do what they say they are going to do.
Another council member wanted to give residents more information.
“Our citizens should know if this doesn’t pass, how many employees will be laid off within the city. They need to know what departments will get cut first,” said Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold.
Councilman Eugene Mach said he plans on voting for the tax increase to be placed on the ballot because he thinks it should be up to the citizens of Warren to decide.
The public never had a chance to speak at Tuesday’s meeting, so council will give them the opportunity at another meeting on Thursday at 5 p.m. Council will take a final vote at a meeting on Monday.
The deadline to get the tax on the November ballot is Wednesday, August 10.