Voters to decide on tax for safety forces

September 09, 2010

City Council has approved legislation to place a charter amendment on the Nov. 2 ballot that will allow the city to divert money from the income tax for school reconstruction to pay safety forces.

If voters approve the amendment, Akron would redirect $4.3 million annually for three years to pay police, fire, EMS and snow removal. The amendment specifies that 50 percent of the money will be used for police, 40 percent for fire and EMS, and 10 percent for snow removal.

The school reconstruction fund would be repaid and anticipated shortfalls in the fund covered by extending the ¼ percent income tax for five years beginning in 2034.

The charter amendment was drafted and sponsored by Council President Marco Sommerville and Mayor Don Plusquellic, who made an impassioned plea to council for its approval in a special meeting Sept. 1.

“I wish we didn’t have to do this and the world economy had caught up with Akron rather than pulling us down,” Plusquellic said. “This is a stop-gap emergency solution. Our situation is analogous to a family facing an emergency that must change its plans – maybe take money it had saved for a vacation – to deal with its current reality.”

Plusquellic said that the plan will not affect the schedule for school reconstruction and that School Superintendent David James supports the plan. He also said new projections show that the school reconstruction project is underfunded – primarily because the state has denied payment for approximately 10 percent of the submitted costs – and extending the income tax for five years will also cover that shortfall.

Council passed the ordinance to place the issue on the ballot contingent upon the city and police union reaching a labor agreement. The agreement must include “proportional sacrifices” by the police union.

“It will not go on the ballot unless we have an agreement,” Plusquellic said.