Heavy levy

Bowling Green City Council seems to be no where near a consensus on how much of a tax increase voters
will be asked to approve in November.
However, most are sure it is going to be an uphill effort to get voters to push the "yes" box
on the ballot screen. There is also agreement that the city must be open and clear about what will
happen if a levy does not pass and how the money will be used.
Six of seven members spent 65 minutes Monday night going over the latest city budget figures and talking
about what they are already hearing from residents.
Mayor John B. Quinn agreed with presenting the facts about what would happen if a tax increase fails but
said the administration would wait until closer to the election. "We’re talking (internally) about
ways to reach out to the whole city work force for input into this problem.
"We are looking at the situation weekly. It changes constantly. We want to wait a little longer to
say what might be on the list. We won’t be ready by July 6," Quinn said.
That’s the date council is scheduled to give the third and final reading to a resolution placing a
0.20-percent increase for the fire division on the November ballot.
"The feedback I’m getting is that this has very little chance," At-Large Member Bob McOmber
said. McOmber said he would be willing to consider a 0.08-increase to keep BG’s rate from topping 2
percent. He said of the more than 200 municipalities in Ohio with income taxes, 113 are at 2 percent.
"I’d rather get something, than nothing," McOmber said, admitting that the lower amount is at
best a one or two-year fix.
Figures presented Monday night indicated a 0.20 levy would cost a taxpayer with a $30,000 income $60 a
year. The cost rises to $80 at $40,000; $100 at $50,000; $120 at 60,000; $150 at $75,000 and $200 at
$100,000.
"There’s a lot of education to do," said Council President Megan Newlove. "I don’t feel
that the amount is the issue but ‘increase’ or ‘no increase’ is the reaction I’m getting."
McOmber said he doesn’t think residents have a full understanding of what has already been cut.
"People tell me they don’t want a tax hike but that we should just cut out the stuff we don’t need.
I think we’re well passed that already."
The administration and council worked to cut $1.62 million out of the 2009 budget and knew the 2010
budget would be a bigger challenge. Income tax receipts this year are running at least five percent
below expectations.
To spend $1.72 million less in 2010, council has already reduced a variety of expenditures worth
$228,000, city administration has said two staffers who have retired will not be replaced at a savings
of $79,395 and changes are being made in the employee health care to reduce costs $100,000. Plans call
for a shift of $217,426 in general fund fire expenses to the fire levy budget; take $586,200 in interest
income from the utility budgets; raise $50,000 in new court costs, $32,000 by increasing ambulance rates
and raise $20,000 by increasing the street cleaning assessment.
That leaves a $400,000 gap, based on Monday’s projections.
Municipal Administrator John Fawcett said the fat in the budget is long gone. "The muscle has been
impacted and we’re now at the bone level."
First Ward Council Member Gordy Heminger said council and the city will have to "be very dramatic.
If this does not pass, this is how we’ll cover it. Make it simple."
Quinn said the administration does not want to ask for a penny more than the city needs. "But there
is a certain level of services that people have come to expect. If we want to maintain that, we have to
go for 2.12 percent. Anything less will be impacted by loss of personnel and services."
City residents now pay a 1.92 percent income tax.