Manpower at Niles police and fire departments threatened

Niles held a town hall meeting to discuss a proposed levy.

NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The City of Niles expects to cut staffing to the police and fire departments if a proposed 0.5 percent income tax increase is not approved by voters.

This, according to literature distributed at a town hall meeting on Wednesday night.

The proposal would bump the income tax from the current 1.5 percent to 2 percent. The city of Niles asked for the community's input on a proposed levy.

Niles City Councilman Ryan McNaughton told those in attendance that they could either pay an the increase in tax or feel less safe.

If approved, the income tax increase would fund safety services in the city. The fire department says it stands to lose six to nine firefighters this year, if the levy is not passed, and the police department says six to eight officers will be laid off, causing the suspension of the Detective and Traffic bureaus.

Both departments say equipment is aging and manpower will be depleted, if the income tax increase is not approved by voters. The police department says less than four officers would service the city’s 19,000 residents, in that case.

“I don’t think anything else could be more urgent,” McNaughton said.

In November, Niles residents rejected a 0.25 percent levy increase for the general fund, which would have been used by safety forces and for road resurfacing. About 56 percent of voters turned that levy down.

Niles is currently in fiscal emergency and is in danger of not being able to pay the bills.

The city has been looking for other sources to pay police officers and firefighters due to increased overtime costs. The fire department has said its overtime costs have increased due to working with a minimum staff.

It has also made cuts, reducing the initial estimated $1.3 million deficit to around $980,000.

Tom Scarnecchia, who was elected as the new mayor of Niles in November, said the lack of funds will be difficult for the new leadership.

The proposed income tax would cost Niles residents 96 cents per week for every $10,000 that they earn annually.

For example, if you make $50,000 a year, you would pay $4.80 per week.

The city says the proposed income tax increase will not affect retirees, people on social security or Niles residents who work in another community with a 2 percent income tax.

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