Warren residents to vote on income-tax renewal

The mayor says residents know the importance of the tax renewal.



WARREN — City voters will be asked during the Nov. 6 general election whether they want the city income-tax rate at a permanent 2 percent.

Although the ballot will read that the 0.5 percent issue is an “additional” tax, it has been levied on a temporary basis for three years.

“It’s a renewal,” said Mayor Michael J. O’Brien, noting it won’t cost taxpayers any more money.

“It’s critical to the city [that it pass],” O’Brien said, noting it brings in $4.6 million annually to the general fund.

In 2004, the 0.5-percent lost in the March primary balloting but received voter approval in the August special election as a temporary measure.

If the issue fails Nov. 6, it expires at the end of the year. This would open the possibility of placing it on the ballot again. Even if it passed in 2008, the city would have lost revenue, officials noted.

If the issue is turned away by voters, O’Brien and Service/Safety Director William “Doug” Franklin said, services will be cut.

Two of the three fire houses will be closed and the number of officers patrolling the streets will be reduced. In addition, other city services supported by the general fund will be negatively impacted.

O’Brien said the safety forces have been better staffed and trained in the past three years, and the number of citizens’ complaints — mostly about the police department — have decreased by 80 percent during that period.

The mayor said the funds are needed so some manpower in the police department can be used to work on task forces with state and federal law enforcement agencies.

When asked to predict the outcome of the issue, the mayor replied, “Residents realize how important the safety forces are.”

Neither O’Brien nor Franklin know of any organized opposition to the tax.

Councilman Alfred Novak, D-2nd, chairman of council’s finance committee, said there is a need for the revenue but doesn’t believe it should be permanent.

Novak said he isn’t campaigning against the 0.5 percent tax, and he too doesn’t know of any organized opposition.

However, Novak believes that the tax should remain temporary so residents can renew it if they are happy with the services they receive or reject it if they aren’t.

He noted that the city’s population has decreased by a third. With a large number of bankruptcies in the city, Novak said, the city can’t afford what he terms the high wages being paid to city employees.


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