Issue 32 becomes first Cleveland income tax hike in 35 years

Issue 32 becomes first Cleveland income tax hike in 35 years

DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - City of Cleveland leaders expected the result on income tax hike proposal Issue 32 to be tight, and it was. The ballot issue, passed by Cleveland residents, asked for a 0.5 percent increase in the municipal income tax, bringing it up to 2.5 percent.

The last time the income tax went up was 35 years ago.

City Hall threatened major cuts if the hike didn't pass. Mayor Frank Jackson said subsequent cuts would have affected the city's ability to reform the police department. Services like street maintenance and pot hole repair would also have suffered if the proposed tax increase didn't pass, according to Jackson.

"I think we've managed the budget very well in light of the cuts we've had to face," said City Council president Kevin Kelley. "It's a rough time to be a city. Take any budget... down $150 million from where we would have been. Our work force is aging, and it's not like we have less abandoned homes. These problems keep happening and we have to deal with them."

Jackson said a failure would also have resulted in layoffs in safety services, plus cutbacks or elimination of others. He says he's put this off for years, but a looming deficit of more than $40 million forced his hand.

The tax hike will generate $80 million more annually, more than 80 percent of which would come from suburbanites who work in Cleveland but can't vote on the issue.

"In principle I want to contribute, but without representation I don't have a say in where that money goes," said Sonya Burns, of Lakewood.

Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association president Steve Loomis says to expect an additional 100 police officers to be hired because of the boost, while Jackson says that city services will be preserved and enhanced with the tax hike.

"What that will do is allow us to be structurally balanced and give us extra money that will allow us to purchase additional services," he said.

"I think they do need an increase in repairing [pot holes]," said Cleveland resident Clarence Black. "It's very terrible. I just had a car repaired, about $168 dollars."

Some think the timing of Issue 32 worked in the city's favor.

"I'm so proud of the city, and this is the right time to do it because [residents are] in great moods right now because we've been doing so well," said Denny Averhart, of Chesterland.

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