|Portage to cut police, up taxes|
|Written by BY DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer|
|Tuesday, 29 September 2009 11:15|
PORTAGE - Village council has adopted a five-year plan to put Portage on the road to recovery.
Now it just needs residents to board the bus with them.
The plan, which calls for eliminating the police department and for voters approving a 1-percent income tax in May, will be a tough sell.
After it was adopted in a brief meeting Monday, resident Mike Stacklin asked what they were going to do in May when Portage voters reject the tax request.
"When the tax levy fails - and it will - what's the next step," he said.
Belinda Miller, chief project manager of the local government services division with the Ohio auditor, said the village must increase revenue. Its only big expense was the police department, which is being phased out by Jan. 1.
Before the vote, Councilwoman Marcia Wolford said she was having trouble with asking voters for another tax. Council already implemented a 1 percent income tax in January, without ballot approval, which is allowed through the Ohio Revised Code. The two income taxes will generate around $118,000 annually.
"The 1 percent income tax kills me. That we're going to double the tax and not provide any service," she said.
"It's the only viable alternative," said Councilman Doug Maas.
The plan was passed with a 4-0 vote. Floyd Wilson and John Jividen were absent.
After the meeting, Mayor Mark Wolford said a lot of hard campaigning for the income tax would have to be done.
"It's going to be real tough to pass it," the mayor said.
He also hopes annexation prospects on the north end of town come through - possibly bringing $60,000 annually into Portage.
Wolford met last week with representatives of DayMark Safety Systems, Century Marketing and Greenline Foods.
"It was a very good meeting and we had very good conversations," he said.
Wolford did admit that officials from the three companies weren't thrilled at the prospect of joining the village, with the income taxes looming. The only advantage for the companies, the mayor said, is a lower sewer rate.
However, Wolford said, the businesses are prepared to stand by a 2001 agreement they have to annex into Portage if a contiguous landowner also annexes. Discussions are ongoing with that man, he said.
Miller, with the auditor's office, also gave an update on the village's possible plan to sell the town hall. She said money from a property sale could not be used for operations.
"So if you were to sell this building it would do nothing to alleviate your problem," Miller said.
Portage's five-year recovery plan now goes before a financial planning and supervision commission for approval Oct. 6 at 6 p.m.
Miller said the plan could be reviewed at any time, most likely annually.
The village was put into fiscal emergency by the state in April. According to the plan adopted Monday, it will have revenues of $289,685 this year and expenditures of $418,507 for a $128,822 deficit.
With the new income tax and the police department cut, the village could have a positive balance of $48,880 by 2011.
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