Mayor explains proposed increase
To the editor:
As the voters of Salem prepare to go to the polls on Nov. 3 to cast their ballots for Salem City Council At-Large, Council President, and Salem School Board positions, I believe it is important to fully understand the facts about the other city issue-the proposal to increase the Salem city income tax an additional 1/2 percent.
While each candidate running for office has the ability to communicate with the voters through signs, handouts, media ads and person-to-person contact, the city must rely on those in office to speak on its behalf. If current elected officials don't let the voters know the real needs of the city, who will?
Salem City Council has decided by vote to allow the tax issue to be put on the ballot for the voter's decision. Since then, not much has been said about the issue, or the reasons why it was proposed in the first place. Rather than the voters being either misinformed or not informed at all about the purpose and plans for the tax increase, I feel an obligation to go over the basic facts about the proposal so each voter will be able to make an informed decision and vote their conscience.
If passed, the l/2 percent income tax increase will do the following:
1 . The tax will begin Jan. 1, 2010 and end Dec. 31, 2013.
2. The tax will be used solely for city capital improvements.
3. No Social Security, pension or unearned income checks will be taxed.
4. None of the tax will go for salary increases or general purpose spending, only capital improvements.
5. The tax income will be used for city- wide curb-to-curb street paving and repairs, storm water system upgrades, and economic development for new job sites.
6. Completion of East Pershing with entrance/exit behind Marc's Plaza.
In other words, the four year 1/2 percent increase will take care of citywide problems that have not been addressed. In a four year period, we will be able to turn Salem around in the direction we need to go. Without the four year increase, the town we call "home" will continue to slip backwards, not the direction any of us like.
The increase is not a popular issue in tough economic times, but when your city needs vital repair, you must fix it so it keeps its value. To do otherwise reflects a lack of pride in your city and community.
For those of you who are retired and are on a fixed income, you will not have to pay any city income tax on your Social Security or pension checks, you have paid your "dues" when you worked. Your "yes" vote will help keep Salem in the good condition you deserve.
For those who are working, the extra 1/2 percent will only be for a four year period, much less then most things we buy on time. Your four-year investment in Salem will produce good "dividends" for years to come.
Finally, this is one tax where you will see visible results rather than with other taxes on a state or national level. All of the funds will stay in Salem to improve our way of life.
These are the facts of where the city is and where it can or will go. I trust you will join with me to invest in Salem's future by voting yes on the four year Capital Improvement tax issue Nov. 3.
JERRY L. WOLFORD
Another view of the proposed tax increase
To the editor:
I would like to address the proposed one half percent income tax increase for the city of Salem. We currently have a 1 percent income tax, if this tax passes our tax rate would be 1.5 percent that is a 50 percent income tax increase. If you currently pay $500 in city tax you would then pay $750. If you now pay $1000 you would then pay $1500. That is a pretty big tax increase!!
According to the city web site the income tax was put into effect in 1960 and it was one half percent and it generated $139,857. In 1968 the tax rate was raised to 1 percent and in 1969 tax collections jumped to $651, 502. In 2008 that same 1 percent tax generated $4,000,565.02. That four million, five hundred sixty five thousand, represents an over 600 percent increase over 1969 tax revenues for the city with the same 1 percent tax rate.
So what has happened since 1969 that caused the tax revenue to increase? Has the city's population grown? No, in fact the population has continually decreased and continues to decline each year. Yet money to run the city has increased right along with the rate of inflation, when taxpayers incomes increased, so did the tax money the city received. That is what a percentage based income tax will do. It will keep up with inflation. So why do our elected officials think we need a 50 percent income tax increase? The answer is simple, the spending by city government is growing faster than the rate of inflation. That can only mean that our city government is expanding. We just have a too expensive form of government. I propose that instead of placing the burden of a 50 percent income tax increase on those paying the bills, that we find ways to reduce the size and cost of how government services are delivered. If we don't correct this problem, we will just have to continue to reach in our pockets and give the government more and more of our hard earned money. If you believe the idea that this is only a temporary tax, you are only fooling yourself. They will be back in four years, crying the blues again, that we must keep this tax increase. Giving more tax money to tax and spend politicians is like enabling a drug addict. Give a drug addict a fix and he will just be back for another fix. The same with tax and spend politicians, they never have enough and always want more. Their programs and obsessions with expanding government's role is all that is important to them. Salem doesn't need a tax fix. We need a smaller more efficient government. Thomas Jefferson said: "The government is best which governs least." Mr. Jefferson was a smart man. We just need to get back to the basics. Local government should only be taking care of police, fire and public ways (streets and parks). On everything else they need to step aside and leave it up to the private sector.
The cost of the city's administrative salaries and benefits alone total more today than the total city income tax collected back in 1960. Do we really need all these full time city administrators or perhaps we should ask, can we afford them any longer? Is it time we perhaps looked at a different form of local government? Do you want to continue turning more and more of your paychecks over to the politicians? We need to think twice before voting this 50 percent tax increase upon ourselves. Ask yourself, do I or my children need or can we afford a 50 percent tax increase or do we just need a smaller more efficiently administered local government? I vote for the smaller government. I hope you do too and will just say NO to the 50 percent Salem City income tax increase. While we are at it we ought to ask those that are running for city office where they stand on this tax. Do they have any new ideas or do they just have the same old tax and spend mentality the majority of those that now occupy city hall has.
Also against proposed tax increase in Salem
To the editor:
The current Democrat controlled Salem City Council has passed a resolution to place on the ballot a 50 percent increase in the Salem city income tax. They claim the city needs this money for all sorts of capital improvements which have never been fully explained nor fully detailed. It's sort of like the current Congress and White House-just give us the additional millions and we will take care of everybody. Trust us.
Well, I have taken a look at the city's budget and I note that tax revenue into the city's treasury has increased every year for the past 15 years. Our tax revenue has gone from $3 million in 1993 to $5.3 million in 2008. During this same time period, however, the percentage of the city's revenues used for capital improvements has steadily declined, from an operations to capital ratio of 60/40 a decade ago to a ratio of 85/15 today.
The reason that more and more of our budget is being eaten up by operations is that the city government has granted increasingly more generous union contracts to its employees, most especially in the area of health care and retirement benefits-which far surpass anything that is being provided in the private sector. So, Salem does not have so much of a revenue problem as it has a management problem.
Consider that we have a full time fire department, for instance, that is legitimately only needed part time as less than 5 percent of their calls relate to fires. According to the city's own published reports, our firemen make more ambulance calls than they do fire calls. I suppose this is so they can justify their enormous wage and benefit packages. That's why you see our huge, expensive fire trucks, manned by four firemen, sent out every time an ambulance is called. Maybe we could afford this years ago; but we can't today.
Consider that our city council as well as all city employees don't even contribute their own state prescribed share of their retirement contribution like most of the rest of Ohio's public employees do. This is wrong and hugely expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. It is among the richest retirement plans conceivable. But I guess it is off the table now because of past agreements.
Meanwhile, there hasn't been a street paved in Salem in years. Our sidewalks are almost unsafe to walk upon after dark, not because of rising crime, but because they are so old and cracked that you might trip and fall if you aren't careful. Speaking of crime, look around town-do you see the signs of a criminal element creeping in? I see it on the building I own in downtown Salem-repeatedly a target of graffiti by the drug vandals that roam around aimlessly in the dark of the night.
Folks, the clock is ticking. If we don't start electing business and civic leaders to run this town, you are going to get what my wife and I thought we escaped when we moved here from Steubenville more than a decade ago. If we aren't careful, this town is going to end up in an ever spiraling downward spin that will be hard to reverse. Take trip to Steubenville if you doubt my word.
Be assured of one thing: the Democrats on city council will never take on the unions. In fact, they will give them more of your tax dollars every chance they can. If you don't believe me, just ask the Democrats running for council this year what they would do to address the city's financial woes. Their answer will be to tax you more.
What happened to serving your people?
To the editor:
What does it say about our politicians when recent polls show that only 42 percent of Americans want the version of health care reform the Democrats are putting forward, yet 56 percent of Americans feel the politicians will force the unwanted health care bill onto us regardless of what we, the citizens, want. Senior citizens want this change even less, with only 36 percent in favor of the proposed changes. What happened to the idea of our politicians actually representing the people and their wishes? Sad.
Unhappy with work of county treasurer
To the editor:
What a surprise! County Treasurer Nick Barborak, reported to county commissioners that county investments are down,
Wasn't it just a year ago, that the Salem City auditor was questioning the investment practices of the county treasurer and the lack of Investment Board meetings and oversight? At that time, Mr. Barborak brushed aside the comments as just "political spin to confuse the voters." Well, it looks like Mr. Armeni was right on and his strategy of "safety first when investing" could have protected county money and paid bigger dividends.
One more thing, why is Mr. Barborak allowing an investment firm to manage the county's money? That is his job for which he's getting paid! It's his job!
Supports passage of Issue 3
To the editor:
Chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party urges voters to vote no on Issue 3 for no other reason, so it appears, is that the four gambling casinos shall be located in the cities of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. Thus, avoiding altogether the Youngstown area. If we look at the full text of Issue 3 we note as follows: in short, the authorized sales of lottery tickets provides that the entire net proceeds of any such lottery are paid into a fund of the state treasury that shall consist solely of such proceeds and shall be used solely for the support of elementary, secondary, vocational, and special education programs as determined in appropriations made by the General Assembly. The purpose for the four casinos is to create new funding for cities, counties, public school districts, law enforcement, and job training for Ohio's workforce.
The 33 percent tax received from the casinos' gross revenue 51 percent will be distributed among the 88 counties in proportion to such counties' respective populations with 34 percent to be distributed among all public school districts.
The city of Youngstown will reap the benefits by not having to hire additional policemen nor be compelled to provide any additional services. Unemployment will probably remain at 8 percent for the next four or five years, according to leading economists. Our state legislators have been scratching their heads searching for ways to correct Ohio's property tax which was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Voting yes for Issue 3 won't correct this problem entirely but it's a start. A vote yes for Issue 3 is "mana from heaven."
Vote yes on Issue 3.