SABINA — Saying he can see no reasonable alternative to deal with a General Fund shortfall, Sabina’s mayor asked council Thursday to help get an additional 0.5 percent earnings tax question on the fall ballot.
The ballot issue would ask residents to approve a proposed earnings tax for a five-year term that would make the town’s total earnings tax amount to 1.5 percent, as there is a 1 percent earnings tax presently in place.
An added 0.5 percent tax, if approved, is estimated to generate about $130,000 to $135,000 annually, said Mayor Dean Hawk.
The money would go toward the village’s police, administrative, legislative and executive costs for five years “to give us a chance to recover from the loss of funding of this weakened economic cycle,” the mayor stated in a report to council.
Hawk pledged he will talk with any person or organization to try to make the case for the supplemental tax.
From 2011 through 2015, the village operated at an average loss of $132,435, said Hawk. He stated that between 2008 and 2014, there was a net loss of approximately 300 employees who paid the existing earnings tax to Sabina.
“We have reduced our utility staff by one in the past year. Our police chief takes his turns at patrol duties as it takes five people to operate a 24/7, 365-day police force, and our village administrator works a full load in utilities operation and is as likely to be down in the hole when a water line breaks as anyone else,” the mayor said in his report.
“We have a great staff and cannot spare any of them without an extensive reduction in services,” added Hawk.
He also touched upon an alternative measure that Sabina Village Councilman Bill Lewis recommends.
“I have made a conscientious effort to invite New Sabina Industries to petition to come into the village, but they do not consider that to be a good business decision and I respect that,” Hawk said. The company has to agree to being annexed.
Lewis indicated during Thursday’s council session that he opposes the new tax, adding however he will not go door-to-door to plead that view.
Lewis continued to advocate that New Sabina Industries (NSI) agree to annexation, saying the action would basically solve many of Sabina’s revenue-related problems. He described NSI as “a 21st-century company at our doorstep.”
If NSI’s site were annexed, it would mean employees there would pay the village’s existing earnings tax.
According to Lewis, NSI has put itself on the village’s “life-support system” for about 30 years, specifying that he had in mind Sabina’s sewer and water systems, as well as its police and fire and life squad services within “a mile of them [NSI].”
Similarly, Sabina Village Councilman Bob Storer said, “Our annexation laws stink. To let people come in at the edge of a corporation, set up a business like that, get away with using water supply, all that stuff.”
Sabina Village Councilwoman Peggy Sloan said she would prefer a sales tax instead of the proposed added earnings tax, but the village is not permitted to do that. She said residents she speaks with say they’re willing “to pay a little bit more” in taxes to keep police coverage around-the-clock.
Sabina Village Councilman Jim Mongold said he doesn’t see there is a choice when it comes to increasing the town’s taxes.
“We have to do something. If that’s all we got [as a budget option], that’s all we’ve got,” said Mongold.
Resident Carl Anders said NSI pays for the village-supplied water it uses, and has made donations to the police and fire departments.
“They do their part,” he said during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Lewis said it’s great the company donates to local agencies, but that the donations constitute “a mere pittance” of the amount of revenue that would be generated if its workers paid the Sabina earnings tax.
Resident Abe Arnold said not everybody pays an earnings tax, adding that the middle class would feel the brunt of a higher earnings tax rate.
Hawk is cautiously optimistic about the tax issue’s prospects in the ballot booth.
“I think I can find enough people who believe in this town to pass this thing,” he remarked.
The first reading was held Thursday for legislation to place the 0.5 percent earnings tax supplement on this November’s ballots.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.