STOW: City Council has its first review of legislation that would propose a .25 percent income tax increase to be placed on November’s ballot.
If passed by voters, the proposal will raise the income tax from 2 percent to 2.25 percent. It would generate between $1.6 million and $1.7 million per year.
According to Mayor Sara Drew’s letter to council members, the .25 percent increase would be earmarked for law enforcement, including the creation of a school safety division within the police department for Stow-Munroe Falls Schools. Funds would be used to pay for additional police officers for the schools and the city.
The idea came from Mayor Drew and a newly appointed safety task force, which investigates ways to enhance security in the schools. The group formed after the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
“It would be irresponsible for us to not try to solve this [safety] problem,” Drew said.
The safety task force designed a survey to assess community priorities for safety in the Stow-Munroe Falls schools and other public buildings. The task force used this the findings from this survey, as well as other community input to develop the income tax proposal.
“Let the community decide if this is the right priority,” Drew added.
In the committee as a whole meeting prior to the city council meeting, Ward 3 councilman Brian Lowdermilk debated validity of the survey used to assess the community needs and said an income tax was premature. During the City Council meeting, he asked if all possible revenue sources had been explored.
“We need to find a steady stream. We need a plan B if this fails,” he said.
First readings of the ballot language took place in addition to legislation that would allow the income tax to be renewed in 2023. The increase is not for Munroe Falls because Drew said the city is a “separate political entity,” but she plans to meet with the Munroe Falls City Council to discuss adopting a similar issue.
Councilman at large Mike Rasor said he would like to see amendments to the legislature showing that the funds generated would only be used for law enforcement.
Stow Police Chief Louis Dirker Jr. spoke passionately about his time on the force and how additional police officers were needed to keep the city secure. He said funds from the proposed tax would also help in preparing teachers and administrators on threat assessment and the ALICE program (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate).
If placed on the November ballot and passed, the income tax would go into effect January 2014.