Dayton income tax renewal set for March election; levy could raise $15M a year

City Commission OKs levy for ballot; voters will decide whether to extend last 0.25% of 2.5% city tax for another 8 years

Dayton voters will decide in three months whether to renew an income tax levy that could generate about $15 million annually to be used for universal preschool, public safety, road repaving, vacant lot maintenance, parks and housing.

The Dayton City Commission this week unanimously approved legislation to put a 0.25% earnings tax levy renewal on the March 19 ballot, to last another eight years.

Dayton voters first approved the temporary income tax hike in 2016. That measure increased the city’s income tax rate from 2.25% to 2.5%.

Dayton city commissioners say this revenue is vital and said significant cuts from current service levels would be in order if the levy measure is not reauthorized.

“I look forward ... to doing good things with this money, but first we have to win this election,” said Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph.

City officials this week said the city already is facing a “fiscal cliff” in 2025 that might necessitate some budget cuts.

“I can’t promise that any department won’t experience cuts as we’re trying to move forward with a fiscal cliff,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

The levy renewal is expected to generate about $15 million annually.

The city plans to put $4.2 million of the revenue each year toward Preschool Promise universal kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-old kids, according to a city ordinance that had a first reading on Wednesday.

The ordinance says $10 million of the annual revenue will go into the general fund to be used for road repairs, parks and vacant lot improvements, plus safety enhancements, which the mayor’s office said would include police staffing and public safety equipment.

About $650,000 of the revenue will be put toward housing investments, the ordinance says.

In 2016, about 55.7% of Dayton voters approved the income tax hike.

Until this measure was passed, Dayton had not increased its earnings tax in more than three decades (1984), said Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr.

“This is not new money,” he said.

Craig Robinson, the president of the Dayton firefighter union, spoke at Wednesday’s city commission meeting to say he supports the tax renewal, which is supposed to provide money to support the safety forces.

But Robinson said he is concerned that the city has not officially committed to providing levy dollars for fire department staffing.

“I ask you all to reconsider that funding strategy,” he said.

Debate on housing funds

In recent weeks, commission members have debated adding housing to the list of funding priorities for the levy revenue. All five members supported using some funding for this purpose, but there was some disagreement about how much.

The commission has committed to using $650,000 of the annual revenue for housing programs, supports and investments.

Commissioner Shenise Turner-Sloss said she hopes city staff will look for and be able to find additional city dollars to put toward housing investments.

She, Commissioner Darryl Fairchild and some community members pushed the city to devote more of the levy funding toward housing. As part of a compromise, the city commission is directing the city to put a separate $450,000 of its federal funding awards toward housing.

The commission had a first reading of a resolution that says it will use some of its funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for housing investments.

Commissioner Darryl Fairchild said the city is showing that housing is priority by adding it to the list of things the levy funds.

“I think this is a significant day,” he said. “Housing is a key block to neighborhood development, revitalization and, in some cases, stabilization.”

“This is a pivot to our neighborhoods,” he said.

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