Springfield tax issue fails narrowly, recount possible

Springfield City Hall flanks Fountain Avenue with the Heritage Center in the background. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Springfield City Hall flanks Fountain Avenue with the Heritage Center in the background. LISA POWELL / STAFF

The city of Springfield’s proposed 0.4-percent income tax increase was narrowly defeated but could face a recount depending on the outcome of about 1,500 provisional and absentee ballots.

Springfield voters appeared to defeat a proposal to raise the city’s income tax for five years from 2 percent to 2.4 percent in Tuesday’s general election, falling by 55 votes, according to final, unofficial results.

If the margin of victory is less than a half of a percent after the provisional ballots are counted, it will trigger an automatic recount as required by Ohio law.

The income tax hike would have generated $6.7 million annually.

“Obviously we were hoping to win,” Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said. “As I understand the process, there’s still a possibility we will. I suspect there are some votes to be counted yet. We hope that when they get counted and the recount is done, that we have the vote.”

PRIOR COVERAGE: Springfield to ask voters for tax increase in November

MORE DETAILS: Audit says Springfield needs income tax hike, must study consolidation

The Clark County Board of Elections will meet Nov. 26 to vote on the acceptance of provisional ballots, which will be processed and scanned over the next three days. The board will reconvene for the official count on Nov. 29, Board of Elections Director Jason Baker said.

The city projects it will collect about $37.9 million in general fund revenues this year, including about $28.9 million in income taxes. But it also estimates it will spend about $38.9 million, which leaves it facing a $930,000 deficit.

Most of the new money was expected to replace recent cuts to state funding and to maintain current services. An additional $2 million would have gone toward street improvements and a Safe Streets Task Force, a special police unit to combat violent crime and heroin abuse.

The money was also to be used to rebuild the city’s dwindling reserves. At the end of last year, the city’s rainy day funds stood at about $2.3 million or 6 percent of its total budget. With the projected deficit this year, those reserves are expected to fall to about $1.4 million.

MORE: Clark County election results

The city currently has about 560 employees. In the past 10 years, the city has cut about 140 positions, officials said.

About 75 percent of the city’s budget is made up of safety services, including police officers, firefighters, dispatchers and the municipal court.

Without the new money, several services could be cut, city leaders have said, including safety services and positions within the police division and at City Hall.

The city commission will hold its annual budget meetings at 6 p.m. Nov. 15 and 16 at the City Hall Forum conference room, 76 E. High St.