Sandusky city commission supports tax hikes

Elected officials vote to proceed with increases toward income, admissions tax rates. WITH VIDEO OF MEETING
Andy Ouriel
Jul 23, 2014

ouriel@sanduskyregister.com

Sandusky officials, some area activists and those representing Cedar Point all support a packaged tax hike.

More importantly: Will a majority of community members also back this proposal at the polls in November?

Sandusky city commissioners unanimously voted 7-0 to proceed with legislation in placing an income tax issue on the fall ballot. The hour-long discussion and resulting vote occurred during a special meeting Tuesday at City Hall.

The income tax issue, however, comes as a bundled deal.

If a majority of residents approve the income tax issue, then this would trigger a separate, automatic increase for the admissions tax.

So, if a majority of voters approve the income tax measure, then the following scenario would occur come January 2015 and beyond:

• The income tax rate would increase from 1 percent to 1.25 percent, generating an extra $1.5 million each year for city operations. 

The income tax is a fee taken out of paychecks for anyone who works within city limits and might impact some residents working outside of Sandusky, officials said. The income tax only applies to earned income and not, for instance, Social Security payments.

• The admissions tax rate would increase from 3 percent to 4 percent, generating an extra $800,000 each year for city operations. 

The admissions tax is a fee tacked onto ticket sales at Sandusky-based entertainment venues, largely dependent upon Cedar Point — the undisputed giant in the region’s tourism industry.

If a majority of voters reject the proposal, the income and admissions tax rates wouldn’t change.

Despite what happens at the polls, executives at Cedar Fair, Cedar Point’s parent company, vowed to pledge an additional $500,000 a year through private investment toward city operations.

In total, accounting for a issue approval and Cedar Fair’s new revenue source, this would create an additional $2.8 million a year for city services.

Sandusky officials lobbied for a tax increase because of their dismal financial outlook.

Case in point: Finance employees project a $500,000 shortfall in the city’s $16 million everyday operating budget come March 2015.

An estimated shortfall stems from soaring expenses, including health insurance costs  union-approved raises, along with less money coming from state coffers earmarked for city services.

The city’s already made substantial cuts in recent times.

Insufficient funding over the years has resulted in deep staffing cuts — slashing full-time staffing levels about 25 percent, from about 280 workers in 2004 to about 210 today — neglect toward road repairs and, more recently, frequent fire station closures.

Raising taxes, then, signifies a last resort for city officials to preserve and enhance local public services, such as police and fire operations, economic development and road reconstruction. Some of the new tax money also would go toward keeping Sandusky Fire Station No. 7 on Venice Road open at all times.

The proposed plan came together after negotiations and compromises between members of three keys groups:

• Sandusky administrators and all seven commissioners.

• Cedar Fair representatives.

• Members from Rebuild Sandusky, a grassroots organization previously campaigning to raise the admissions tax rate from 3 percent to 6 percent. With this new proposal, Rebuild Sandusky has dropped its plan and will support the proposal commissioners adopted.

 

 

At Tuesday’s meeting, many people spoke about the packaged tax deal.

Among those who expressed their opinions and what they had to say:

 

“We hope this proposal will put us on a path to rebuilding Sandusky and to move this city forward. I believe this is the most fair bargain that could have been reached on this issue.”

— city manager Eric Wobser

 

“I am a no-tax-increase kind of guy, (but) when (city manager) Eric (Wobser) called me about this agreement, I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to get started.”

— commissioner Jeff Smith

 

“I just like the fact that Cedar Fair is willing to start working with the city of Sandusky, and I hope this is the future for even more good things to come. I am going to totally back (this plan).”

— Sandusky resident Jennifer Brindley

 

“When you can get people at the table negotiating and coming to an agreement, I think that says a lot about what we can do. I am very encouraged about that and look forward to what we can do in the future.”

— commissioner Naomi Twine

 

“Could the city get by without any tax increases? Sure. We could close (Sandusky Fire) Station No. 7. We could have more potholes. We could have fewer police. We could eliminate the flowers in our downtown parks. We could stop having Christmas lights. There are all kinds of things we can do without. But I don’t think anyone wants to live in that town. For Sandusky to thrive, the cuts need to stop, and the city needs to start investing.”

— Sandusky resident Jim Timmerberg

 

“We are presenting to the public something that they participated in. We also saw everyone at the table work through problems and come up with a potential solution that is an opportunity for the citizens of Sandusky to invest in themselves. The ultimate goal is to build a city that people want to move into. To do that, we have to do the things all of you have talked about and asked us to try to do that we haven’t had the funds for. Now you have the opportunity, with assistance from our parents at Cedar Fair, to do that.”

— commissioner Wes Poole

 

“We recognize we play a key role in the vitality of our local economy, and we are proud to do our part to advance an optimistic vision for the future of Sandusky. A successful Sandusky plays a big role for the success of Cedar Point, and we are happy to support the proposal.”

— Cedar Point general manager and vice president Jason McClure

 

“I see it as an investment, and I’m willing to invest a quarter (25 cents) of every $100. I am excited on how everything worked out. This is an investment in our future, in our children’s future, in our grandchildren’s future.”

— commissioner Julie Farrar

 

“Our committee will be diligent in overseeing whatever money is given to us. We will make sure everything is spent properly, accounted for properly, looked at properly and done in a good, prudent matter.”

— city finance committee chairman Allen Nickles

 

“It’s never easy bringing a wide variety of ideas together, and I think as quickly as you folks were able to do that really shows the level of caring from everyone involved for this city. It’s an opportunity to turn a corner, and I think we can get a community to rally behind us."

— commissioner Scott Schell

 

“We are at a turning point now. The community can turn to a (better) standard. It will take a few years. It will take some diligence. If this is the way it will get done, I will try to help you get it passed.”

— Sandusky resident Dennis Timple

 

“We are celebrating today because this is a good day for Sandusky, but the work starts right now. This will almost be meaningless if we fall short of convincing our residents that a one-quarter percent tax rate is doable.”

— commissioner Dick Brady

 

“For the first time in many years, I see in the collective eyes of Sandusky something I have not seen in a long time: hope and confidence. We will now have a full debate about the direction of our city, and with the open support of our citizens, business leaders and this commission, I believe the voters will pass this issue. I am well aware of the risks, too. This may be our last, best opportunity to rebuild Sandusky. It will be neither quick nor easy. But I believe we can make our city great again.”

— ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr.

 

 

Watch the meeting in the player below

Comments

reader

Thanks for broadcasting this meeting for those of us unable to attend in person.

IT'S ME

LOL, poor Sharon was pretty much told to sit down and SHUT UP!! LOL!!!!

Comrade Boose

Alright still not to late to follow us on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/Rebuild...

MrSandusky

“I am a no-tax-increase kind of guy, (but) when (city manager) Eric (Wobser) called me about this agreement, I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to get started.”

— commissioner Jeff Smith

Yeah, these are the people that we elect in this town...

Comrade Boose

Everyone should be excited, basically for every dollar that is contributed through income tax the admissions tax and Cedar Points tax restructuring matches.

sugar

Will you be paying the tax? Or are you retired? Or did you get a raise ?

Comrade Boose

I pay taxes in Sandusky and why do I pay taxes? Because I use the services that are provided! Why wouldn't I want to pay 25 cents for every $100.00 I earn if Cedar Point is going to match it.

sugar

So you pay payroll taxes to Sandusky? Please tell me what services you use?

Comrade Boose

I drive on the roads, walk on the side walks, use the parks, called the ambulance before, feel safe with the police protection provided. Have had my tree trimmed back when that service was provided.

But now I will be getting extra money added to my contribution what a city.

sugar

How asinine, lol I want to pay more, because CP will pay ore. How about the city learn to live within it's means?

Comrade Boose

Once again try to stay with me here.
1. The city is trying to live with in it's means they have cut the work force by 1/3
2. Since then The governor has cut local funding
3. Although it is a slight tax increase of .25 cents on every $100.00 of income that is earned there is a match bonus of almost the same amount. I do not think there are any other cities out there that can make this claim
4. All of your arguments are WEAK so far

sugar

This city has more of an income than many of it's size because of CP. They need no more of MY money. It's MY money I earn it I do not want to give them one more dime. They are not prudent with my money.
What's weak is allowing a group of people to take more of my money and pi** it away giving it to their union buddies and pet projects.
Now I don't care what you say, you bully big mouth, I will continue to post my comments and hope that there are many who feel the same way and vote a big fat NO come November.

Sandumpy Proud

All hail Comrade Smith! I don't like taxes but I vote for increasing them. Thank you for your leadership Comrade Smith!

Comrade Boose

Remember folks you can help "Rebuild Sandusky" by voting YES in November!

sugar

Never minded you may not have enough money to eat, make your car payment, clothe your children. We must Rebuild Sandusky! And in 5 yrs our brilliant gov will have torn it down again, and what's .25% once more?!

WhatTheHeck

That Brindley woman is HOT !!

sugar

This is BS, what a crock. Yes, isn't this wonderful timing! Load of garbage . Vote NO!

CommonsenseNow

An estimated shortfall stems from soaring expenses, including health insurance costs union-approved raises ... have to pay those union approved raises.

Stop It

Did they all hold hands and sing "Kumbayah" at the end?

IT'S ME

I'm ok with the .25% increase of income tax, but make the admission tax at least 5%.
Sounds like Cedar Fair is BUYING the tax rate THEY want!

Factitious

Too late. Already done. Sounds like what you would have done is pretty close to this. Will you support it?

YoMamma

But it's such a savings over 2004! What a bargain, thanks city commissioners!

Taxed Enough Already

OH goodie now we can hire more "tree trackers" YIPPEE!!!!!!

MrSandusky

But the trees magically stop crime, just look at the studies done by people that are paid to track trees...

sugar

Most of us have had NO raises in years, some of us took cuts, we see the city workers all got raises. What don't you commissioners and you Mr. Wobser understand ? Where should we take this extra .25 from? Our food budgets? Our children's medical care? Stop going to work because we took it from our gasoline budgets?

CommonsenseNow

Totally agree.

Darkhorse

It all worked out as planned. Its all in the strategic planning and it was brilliant. The hard part starts with trying to sell the tax to the citizens.

Enough_Already

YES! Punish the productive people, all the while dishing out to the leaches of society! Great Idea!

sugar

Wobser is just another big gov lackey. Of course that's why he was hired.

knowitall

Common sense should prevail, not emotional responses. I just watched the video of the commission meeting. I think the city administration was very smart to work out a plan in concert with CP. Like it or not, relations with CP are important. Like it or not our city has lost tax payers through the years. The population used to be near 33,000 and now is about 25,000. There are the same number of streets, the same water plant, the same parks, etc, etc. in order to pay to keep those fixed costs those who remain must pay a greater percentage. That is just the arithmetic. I am surprised the proposed income tax only went up 0.25%. Of course, that will not sustain us forever. The fact that there will not be a fight with CP is a great thing. The fact that they were agreeable to a 1% increase and also a $500,000 kicker is great too. I will whole heartedly vote yes!

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