NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – Niles leaders are breathing a little easier after the passage of a 0.5 percent income tax increase during Tuesday’s primary election.
The income tax increase — from 1.5 to 2 percent — is expected to raise $2 million and curtail a looming $1.5 million deficit that the city faced by the end of the year. About two-thirds of voters — just more than 4,000 people — agreed to the increase.
On Wednesday, Niles City Council held its first meeting since the levy was approved by voters. In attendance were members of the city’s police and fire departments, which celebrated their colleagues soon return to work.
“We’re elated about it. The money was desperately needed,” said Niles Fire Lt. Bill Santell.
Last November, Niles voters rejected a 0.25 percent income tax increase. After that, 12 employees were laid off, including firefighters and police officers, to save $600,000.
The income tax increase won’t go into effect until July, but that money is slated for the city’s safety forces. Santell said the department is already looking into the process of getting the laid off employees back.
“It’s a huge safety issue, because actually, we’re six people short,” he said.
The passage of the levy also prevented further layoffs from occurring, as well as a restructuring of the Niles Police Department, which predicted further cuts would prevent officers from taking some calls in the city.
There were some concerned citizens at Wednesday’s meeting. They wanted to ensure that the city will take care of the safety concerns surrounding the cuts of fire and police personnel.
On Thursday, city officials will meet again to discuss the city’s budget with state officials, brought in to oversee the city’s fiscal emergency.