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Columbus Mayor Asks For City Income Tax Increase

It's been almost thirty years since the city of Columbus has increased its income tax rate. Mayor Michael Coleman wants voters to approve an increase in an August special election. He said it's the only way to keep the city operating at its current level. But opponents say mismanagement is at the root of the city's economic troubles.

"We've cut to the bone. And now we're about to cut our limbs off."

That's what Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said will happen to the city if it does not get some new revenue. He said laid off workers, pay furloughs and closed recreational centers are not enough to - in his words - maintain the city's quality of life.

So Coleman wants voters to approve a twenty-five percent increase in the city's income tax - from two percent to two-and-a-half percent. He said if the tax increase fails, cuts seen this year will pale in comparison to future cuts.

"It will mean drastic cuts in basic safety, health and neighborhood services to our residents. That means we will have no choice but to consider layoffs of safety forces as well as wholesale elimination of many civilian services well beyond our prior cuts," the mayor said.

Republican political consultant Terry Casey opposes the tax increase. He said Coleman and others at city hall have overspent the city's income for years - on what he calls pet projects like the river front.

"Clearly city hall has not been focused on the basics, so they're going to try and use scare tactics to force people and do a massive tax hike," Casey said.

Right now, a person making $40,000 a year pays the city $800. If voters approve the increase, the bill goes up to $1,000.

There are some exemptions though. People younger than 18 years of age, senior citizens on pensions and Veterans' benefits will not be taxed.

Holding an August election will cost tax payers about $500,000. But City Council President Michael Mentel said the city can not afford to wait three months to hold the election.

"It will allow us in very relative quick time to be able to start collecting that should it be passed," Mentel said.

GOP consultant Terry Casey questions the August vote.

"August special elections are not the best time for democracy to have elections. It sounds like they want to sneak it by people," Casey said.

If approved the increase will bring in about $97 million year in new revenue for the city. The mayor promised it would be years before the city would need another tax increase.

"A long time from now. A long, long, long time. I mean, a long time," he said.