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The Suburbanite
  • Allen Schulman: Cutbacks from Columbus force Canton to look at tax increase

  • Canton City Council President Allen Schulman offers his opinion on why a city tax increase is necessary.

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  • A few years ago, I wrote an opinion piece in this newspaper setting forth the reasons why a city tax increase might one day be necessary.
    That day has arrived.
    Due in large part to the radical budgetary agenda of Gov. John Kasich and his Republican allies in Columbus, our city is now faced with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The projected shortfall, between $4 million and $5 million, would result in the dismissal of 90 police officers and firefighters, as well as other draconian measures. It would devastate our community.
    One of the reasons for this revenue gap is the Republican rollback of the formula for Local Government Funds.
    Established in 1934, during the depths of the Great Depression, this state funding was designed to help struggling local governments to weather the economic downturn with a promise to fairly divide the Ohio sales tax (3 percent at the time) that was passed at the same time.
    BIG CUTS COMING
    Despite state revenues currently exceeding estimates by more $300 million, our share in 2013 will be cut in half. Added to this loss is the complete elimination of the estate tax, which benefits only the very wealthy.
    Our city has survived the Great Recession of 2008, but we will not survive Gov. Kasich’s scheme to balance the state budget on the backs of our local governments unless we can adapt to this new reality foisted on us from Columbus. As the governor himself said earlier this month, “If you want to spend, raise it locally.”
    While other Ohio cities, such as Columbus and Parma, and local governments such as Stark County and Canton City Schools have raised taxes to support their services, Canton has been working within its budget without layoffs or tax increases.
    In fact, Canton has had no tax increase since 1982.
    Now, however, increasing revenue is not simply a question of safety — although the loss of 90 safety forces would be disastrous — it is also an economic imperative to remain competitive with other urban areas. While they invest, we are mired in a 30-year-old tax system. We must improve our infrastructure and rebuild our neighborhoods.
    In order to attract new businesses and retain those already here, we need a 21st-century renewal. This will require all of us to share in that effort.
    SHARE IDEAS
    Your City Council’s finance committee, ably chaired by Joe Cole, will continue to meet to discuss the various proposals to secure Canton’s future.
    We need your ideas and thoughts. Email me at allenschulmancanton@gmail.com; attend council meetings; or talk to the mayor and members of Canton City Council. (Information has been changed to correct an error at 10:15 a.m. 5/24/12. See correction at end of story.)
    Page 2 of 2 - In addition, city leaders will reach out to neighborhood and community organizations to explain our financial position and seek support for a ballot measure to raise revenues.
    No one wants to add to the burdens our citizens are enduring. But all of us want and deserve a city that meets the needs of this new century and that provides safe neighborhoods, good jobs and a bright future. That time is now.
    Correction: The email address for Allen Schulman is allenschulmancanton@gmail.com. The wrong address was posted when this story was first published online 5/20/12.