Huber voters asked to approve renewal levy for public safety

What: Community discussion forum

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: Huber Heights Senior Center, 6428 Chambersburg Road

Huber Heights voters will be faced with an income tax renewal levy on Tuesday’s ballot that will not raise taxes but a defeat would result in nearly $2 million in cuts to public safety services.

The 0.25 percent, 10-year earned income tax renewal levy — Issue 13 on the ballot — is part two of a two-step process to maintain the current level of services.

In November, voters approved the city's request to increase the income tax rate from 2 percent to 2.25 percent for public safety, generating $1.7 million annually in new money. A renewal passage Tuesday will keep the income tax rate at 2.25 percent and generate $1.75 million a year.

If it fails, the city would be forced to cut $1.75 million, notably 14 public safety personnel — five police and nine fire — going into next year, City Manager Rob Schommer said. Each department has 50 employees.

“Safety is of prime importance,” Schommer said. “In order to maintain the level of services that are enjoyed today, it’s necessary to maintain the funding for it. Keeping the city safe and secure is paramount.”

A community forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at the Huber Heights Senior Center.

Mayor Tom McMasters opposed Issue 19 in November, and said at the time that he cast his vote as if he were a regular citizen and not as the mayor of Huber Heights.

McMasters said earlier this week that he’ll once again vote as a citizen, but it’s “highly likely that I’ll vote for” Issue 13.

“But you never know until you make the selection,” McMasters said. “I change my mind pretty often. … I believe the city needs the money. We’re pressing forward and hoping for good results.”

At the end of this year, 0.25 percent will fall off the city’s income tax rate. A renewal will be for a 10-year period through 2025.

The revenue generated from the renewal levy will be divided — as it currently is — with the police (40.5 percent, $708,750), fire/EMS (40.5 percent, $708,750) and general city operations/parks and recreation (19 percent, $332,500).

“They overwhelmingly supported it in November and I hope that support carries over in May so we can go back to business and do what we do best — providing a top level of care for this community,” Fire Chief Mark Ashworth said.

Schommer said a renewal passage on Tuesday would stabilize the community for the next 10 years, and another levy is not projected during that time frame.

“As we continue to grow and build our base, then we can restore previously reduced services and bring back some things,” said Schommer, noting there are three vacancies in the fire department and four in the police department.

If the income tax measure would have failed in November, $2.3 million in cuts would have been phased in. The proposed reductions included nine fire/EMS personnel and seven police officers.

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