Nearby Wilmington is facing issues with its budget that might sound familiar to Hillsboro residents who recall dwindling carryovers a few years ago.
In Hillsboro, Mayor Drew Hastings and a slim 4-3 majority on city council addressed shrinking carryovers by approving a plan in 2013 to eliminate Hillsboro Fire & Rescue in favor of a contract with the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District, along with other moves. Disbanding the city’s own fire department was controversial, but the city’s finances have been stronger in recent years, due also to steadily increasing tax revenues.
In Wilmington, city officials are seeking a city income tax hike. And in the meantime, the city’s first-year mayor is asking departments to submit budgets that assume the tax increase, which will be on the November ballot, will not pass.
“We have to be realistic on this budget,” Mayor John Stanforth said at a council finance committee meeting last month. “I hope that tax passes in November, but I can’t do a budget on hope.”
A 0.5 percent earnings tax increase will be before Wilmington voters in November. Council approved placing the tax before voters to address a $1.3 million deficit this budget year that is projected to reduce the city’s carryover to less than $420,000.
Stanforth said all general fund departments, including the city’s general administration, will be asked to limit their spending requests by 20 percent, the Wilmington News Journal reported. That directive won’t impact the departments paid for by enterprise funds, such as the water, wastewater and solid waste departments.
Stanforth told the News Journal that he has to “hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”
Meanwhile, a group of Wilmington residents has organized a committee that believes the passage of what is being called a temporary municipal income tax increase “is necessary for the quality of life residents have come to expect in a community once ranked as one of the best small towns in America.”
Tyler Williams has taken a leadership position as co-chairman of the Campaign for Wilmington’s Future. Dana Dunn is assisting as co-chairman and Scott Holmer is treasurer.
“Our team will be encouraging passage of the temporary municipal income tax on the ballot November 8 for the City of Wilmington, while also encouraging our elected officials to pursue a spending plan that will focus on infrastructure and safety,” Williams stated in a press release.
“In the past decade, Wilmington and the surrounding areas were hit by an historic loss of jobs,” Williams said. “As a result, Wilmington’s tax base has been cut in half, resulting in the city operating on supplemental funds for the past six years, despite cuts throughout the city government.”
The group states that, if approved, the new 1.5 percent earnings tax will be in line with almost all Ohio cities and the county seats of neighboring counties. Many nearby communities have existing taxes higher than Wilmington. Hillsboro has been at 1.5 percent for years. WCH is at 1.95 percent and Xenia is at 2.25 percent.