Lebanon asking voters to increase income tax to cover fire expenses, lower property tax

Senior citizens will benefit the most from the proposed tax income increase

Lebanon voters will be asked to approve a .5% increase to the city’s income tax in the November election to pay for fire expenses to add additional fulltime staff.

City Council recently approved placing the additional 0.5% increase request on the Nov. 7 ballot that would be added if approved by votes to the current 1% income tax. With the proposed increase, Lebanon’s income tax will still be below the average of many other communities in the region, according to city officials.

The proposed additional income tax with property tax reduction would change total taxes in the following ways:

  • Residents working in Lebanon would see an increase of about $5 to $18 per month.
  • Residents working outside Lebanon would see a decrease of about $16 to $23 per month.
  • Residents on a fixed income living in a $200,000 house would see a decrease in property taxes by $14 a month or $170 a year.

If approved, the additional tax revenues would be directed to Division of Fire/EMS operations as well as automatically reducing the current 9-mill property tax fire levy by 3 mills to 6 mills. It would also enable the city to have 12 full-time firefighters/medics on duty per shift and avoid periodic closures of Station 42 which is located off Ohio 48 near the Interstate 71 interchange and the Lebanon industrial parks.

City officials said the number of calls for fire/EMS service have increased by 25% over the past five years

Currently, the fire levy only supports eight full-time staff per shift and relies on four part-time staff per shift. City Manager Scott Brunka said the part-time staffing model is broken and that there are fewer part-time firefighters in the region. He said since 2018, Lebanon has hired 45 part-time firefighters and only 13 remain on the part-time roster.

Of the 32 that have left, the average tenure was 15 months. In addition, it costs the city about $5,000 to outfit a new firefighter/medic with the appropriate protective gear, he said.

Brunka told council that the income tax would shift some of the tax responsibility to the 11,000 people who work in Lebanon but do not live in the city. Another 1,853 people work and live in Lebanon, while 8,576 live in Lebanon but are employed outside of the city. He said it would reduce the burden on senior citizens and other residents who are paying an income tax to other cities.

Under Lebanon’s ordinances, the income tax will not be levied on incomes of Social Security benefits, pensions, military pay, interest and dividends, or any other exemptions listed in the city code.

“The income tax model creates lower tax responsibility on residents compared to property tax model by shifting Fire Operations funding onto individuals who do not live in the city, but work in the city and therefore pay the income tax,” Brunka said.

The current 9-mill fire levy expires in 2024.

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