2012-11-10 / Front Page

Voters reject new police, school income taxes

By Charles Prince

LANCASTER - Lake-area races in Fairfield County focused on two tax issues.

In Baltimore, village officials asked voters to approve an additional .75 percent income tax for three years to fund the village’s expanded police department. The new tax would only be assessed on “earned income” which means retirement income and income from investments would not be subject to the proposed tax.

In November 2011, Baltimore voters rejected a proposed four-mill property tax levy to fund the police department by a 633-355 vote. That led to the December layoff of two full-time officers, leaving the department with just a fulltime chief and one full-time officer.

The proposed income tax increase fared slightly worse than the property tax levy. Voters rejected it by a 899-415 tally. Baltimore Mayor Bob Kalish told The Beacon Wednesday, “We are going to respect the wishes of the majority. In my opinion, it will be a long time before we put another levy on.” Kalish thanked the voters that supported the levy and pledged “to provide services the best we can.”

In Walnut Township, voters were asked to replace the Walnut Township Local School District’s 1.25 percent income tax with a 1.75 percent tax effective Jan. 1, 2014. District voters originally approved the 1.25 percent income tax for 10 years in May 2003. It raises about $1.2 million a year for operating expenses. The original tax is levied on most income except Social Security, welfare benefits, disability benefits and child support. Its tax base includes interest, dividends, unemployment compensation, pensions, annuities, capital gains and alimony. The current approved a one-mill, five-year replacement fire levy by a 1,411 to 922 vote and Union Township voters replaced a 1.5-mill fire levy for five years by a 1,216 to 797 margin.

Buckeye Lake’s levy ran into trouble after a Beacon investigation found large gaps in the department’s paid staffing schedule affected response times. A Beacon editorial urged voters to reject the renewal to send a message to Mayor Rick Baker and village council members to fix the dysfunctional department.

Voters did just that, rejecting the renewal by a 490-391 vote. Baker told The Beacon after the election that he fears using general fund money to help finance the Buckeye Lake Fire Department. However, Baker doesn’t want to keep returning to the ballot continually, hoping for a different outcome.

“If the general fund has to subsidize the fire department, it’ll take away from other departments,” he said, adding that he’ll meet with village council members, fire department staff, and members of a newly formed Buckeye Lake Fire Department advisory committee before making any decisions. “We’ll just have to talk among us and see where to go from here,” he said. “I don’t want to keep going back to the voters again and again. There are lots of things to think about.”

Likewise, council president Charlene Hayden said she wasn’t ready to speculate what will happen. “Decisions about the fire department will be made after discussion with council members and the fire department staff,” she said.

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