Riverside voters approve income tax increase request

Riverside is switching companies that will process city income taxes. FILE
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Riverside is switching companies that will process city income taxes. FILE

A 1% income tax increase request Riverside put on the ballot to pay for police and fire operations sailed to victory today with 61% of those who turned out to the polls approving the measure, according to final, unofficial results by the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

The measure will increase the current 1.5% income tax to 2.5%. Half of the revenue from the 1% increase would go to police and the other half of the revenue would go to fire services.

“It sends a clear message from the residents of what it is that they would not only like to see from the city, but where they’re putting their resources, their tax dollars, investing in that public safety infrastructure,” Riverside Mayor Pete Williams told this news outlet Tuesday night. “It’s a great step for the city and I’m glad that the residents are the ones leading the way with this.”

With the “pretty significant margin” by which the measure was approved, Williams said he is hopeful that Riverside’s residents are ready to continue the momentum the city has seen in the last year to year-and-a-half with some private investment along with some public infrastructure improvements that it has seen on major thoroughfares.

“To me, this is the next step,” he said. “City council can’t wait to get back together Thursday night for our next meeting and plot out the next steps.”

City officials say the increase is necessary due to expenses — including police and fire services — rising faster than income from taxes coming into the city. Health insurance costs alone are rising at nearly 11% per year, city officials noted earlier this year. A 1% income tax increase is projected to bring the city’s revenues in line with rising costs.

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Riverside, until now, did not have a tax credit for residents who work in another city.

As part of the levy, the city will restore the 100% tax credit to citizens. That means anyone who lives in Riverside and works in a city with a 2.5% income tax or higher will not pay any further income tax to Riverside, but those who work in, for example, Huber Heights or Fairborn, where the income tax is lower, would pay the remaining income tax to Riverside, city officials previously said.

The new tax, if approved, would help transition the fire department from a mixed part-time/full-time department to an entirely full-time department, something that fire chief Dan Stitzel previously said is necessary to keep firefighters from being overworked and would help assist recruiting.

Revenue from reduced income tax credit that citizens currently pay has mostly gone to capital improvements, such as purchasing two new fire engines for the fire department.

“My view, and I believe the council’s view, on the issue is that the residents of Riverside have made it very clear to us that they put a high value on our public safety officers,” Williams said “They’ve made it clear that that’s an area they would support, or they would like an opportunity to support, that’s why we brought forth this ballot initiative and we’re hopeful that the interests of the city align with the proposal and the vision that the council has brought forward on our plans for public safety.”

Williams, who has been mayor for two years, said Riverside City Council asked voters to approve road levies in 2019 and 2020 and both times it failed.

“What we as a city council did is we went back and listened to what it was the citizens were telling us and that’s where I think that the importance and the high value they place on our public safety officials became evident,” he said. “That’s how we ended up where we are today.”

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