Riverside proposing hike in city income tax to fund police and fire operations

RIVERSIDE — City council is taking steps to put a 1% income tax increase request on the November ballot that would go toward police and fire operations. The city’s current income tax is 1.5%.

Council is expected to vote for a second time on the request July 22 during a meeting that is open to the public for comment at city hall.

Council unanimously passed a first reading of an ordinance to place it on the ballot.

Half of the proposed 1% increase will go toward police funds, and the other half will go toward the fire funds. Currently, the police and fire funds are funded from the general fund and other levies.

Riverside interim city manager Chris Lohr said the levy would also restore the full income tax credit to people who pay income tax outside of the city, so anyone who pays income taxes outside of the city will not have to pay double.

Riverside is facing budget difficulties, with revenues falling behind projected costs, said former city manager Mark Carpenter in February.

Carpenter said revenues are rising by about 1% a year, while the cost to maintain the city’s current staffing levels is going up at a much higher rate. Personnel costs, for example, are rising at 2% per year, while healthcare costs are projected to rise at 11% per year, according to Carpenter.

A 1% increase would bring the revenue levels to sustainable levels through 2029, according to projections Carpenter presented at a meeting in February.

At the time, some city council members suggested that they consider increasing a tax specifically for police and fire.

Fire chief Dan Stitzel said he supports the levy and hopes it passes, as it would help with staffing levels at the department. He said if a medical emergency comes in, the staff must jump on that call. But if a fire call comes in, the same staff is also going to that call.

“Other departments, they have two different crews with two different pieces of apparatus, so they’re not being overworked like we are,” he said.

June was the busiest month in the history of the department, he said. Stitzel said he would like to see the department become full-time as that would help with both attracting people to work at the fire department and decrease the stress currently placed on firefighters.

Riverside Fire Department is staffed by both part-time and full-time firefighters.

Carpenter, who retired last week, said police and fire budgets are the biggest part of the city’s expenses. The police budget alone costs more than $4 million, according to Carpenter.

Carpenter noted that other surrounding areas have a 2% or higher income tax. Beavercreek is the only nearby town to Riverside without income tax, but property taxes are higher, he noted.

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