NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – A town hall meeting was held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Hall in Niles to give the community information on a proposed income tax increase in the City of Niles. Approximately 200 people filled the room to learn more.
The city is in fiscal emergency, and a levy rejected by voters in November worsened the city’s financial issues. The city is now asking voters to improve a 0.5 percent income tax increase — from 1.5 to 2 percent — to curtail a looming $1.5 million deficit.
Niles Mayor Thomas Scarnecchia says, without the levy, the city faces additional police and fire department layoffs, as well as layoffs of city employees.
“We are in financial crisis now. If we do not get this income tax, we will be in such dire need, we will be shutting down most of the city’s services, because we don’t have the money now,” he said.
A person making $60,000 a year currently pays $900 in taxes each year. If the income tax levy is approved, taxpayers would pay $300 more, or $5.77 per week.
That increase would generate $2 million extra for the city’s general fund, which supports the police and fire department, according to Niles Police Office Robert Miketa, who urged those in attendance Monday to approve the levy.
Retirees will be exempt from the Niles income tax increase. Those not paying were factored into the final amount that will be raised.
“We should be out of the woods if it passes, and it has to pass. It has to pass,” Scarnecchia said at the meeting.
Yard signs and pamphlets were passed out in support of the levy, and while some people spoke out against the levy or proposed cuts, most people at the meeting seemed to support the tax increase.
Scarnecchia has also proposed a revised financial plan, which would save the city $1.8 million. Scarnecchia is tasked with finding $1.5 million in savings, in case the tax levy fails.
The city has already laid off 12 city workers to save money, including three police officers and three firefighters. Scarnecchia’s proposal would also get rid of other jobs in the city, including the director of the city’s wellness center. That position would be filled by two part-time workers, saving the city $50,000.
Scarnecchia has also proposed selling the naming rights to the city’s wellness center, getting rid of the city’s answering service and opening a city impound lot to raise funds.
His proposal will be reviewed by the Niles Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, appointed by the state to tackle the city’s budget deficit. Once reviewed, it would go before the Niles City Council for final approval.