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Council votes down payroll tax increase

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By Bryan Marshall

A standing-room only crowd of more than 40 people watched July 1 as the Dry Ridge City Council shot down a payroll increase.
The question remains, however, if another increase will be brought back to the table.
“I think it’s dead,” said Mayor Clay Crupper. “They can’t seem to agree.”

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Crupper originally had recommended that the council raise the payroll tax from .5 percent to 1 percent in order to generate about $320,000 in much-needed additional revenue.
In the recently passed 2013-14 city budget, Dry Ridge is estimated to only have $32,912 in its General Fund at the end of the fiscal year.

However, a motion was later made to increase the payroll tax to 1.5 percent.

“I never did want a 1.5 percent payroll tax like they started out with,” Crupper said. “I just wanted a half percent (increase) to do us a good job and give us a little money in reserves to replace an ambulance later on or the water tower’s going to have to be painted.

We’re going to have to have some money for stuff. I was just trying to build up a little reserve for that.”
After hearing complaints from local employees during its June 17 meeting, the council voted 4-2 to withdraw the ordinance that would have tripled the amount anyone who works within the city limits would have to pay.
Council members Scott Bates and Sara Cummins voted against withdrawing the ordinance.
A second motion to raise the payroll tax from .5 percent to 1 percent also failed 4-2 with Jim Hendy and Fred Money voting yes and Bates, Cummins, Kenny Edmondson and Carisa Hughett voting no.
“A half percent would have put us in decent shape, I think,” Crupper said. “I was disappointed it didn’t get passed. I thought they would pass it, but they didn’t. So, we’ll just go from there and do the best we can.”
“I think the next step is for the next budget, unless more money comes in than what we think, we’ll just have to do a lot of cutting,” he said. “We’ll have to lay off some in the firehouse or something.”
Although both a .5 percent and 1 percent increase were voted down, there still may be a chance another payroll increase is brought to the table by the council.
“What if we want to raise beyond a .5 percent?” Edmondson asked after both ordinances failed. “What if we didn’t want the whole percent? What if we want .75 percent?”
Under that rate increase, the payroll tax would go to 1.25 percent.
Before an official motion could be made, Hughett expressed her concern for voting before looking at all the city’s financial numbers closer, a sentiment Edmondson agreed with.
“I think our concern is that we still have not discussed salaries here, overtime here, police department here,” he said.
The meeting also included discussion about getting a committee of three council members to meet with department heads and examine their budgets.
Crupper, who is scheduled to meet with one council member so far, said the next step is up to the council.
“If they want to bring (a .75-percent increase) up, I’ve kind of left it up to them,” he said. “It’s up to them.”
Armed with signs and chants, members of UAW Local 3064 at Dana Corp. gathered at Piddle Park 90 minutes before the meeting and marched down the street to the city building.
The group shouted, “What do we want? No more taxes! When do we want it? Now!” and “No justice, no peace!” as several passing cars honked and waved.
Crupper opened up the floor to any attendee who wanted to speak after the ordinances failed.
Earl Abshire, who spent three terms on a city council and was a volunteer fireman in Boone County, said he would not be popular, but he believes if you cut services, the city will not be able to grow.
“Services are something that you cannot cut, especially when they are probably already operating at a bare minimum,” he said.
“No one wants new taxes,” Abshire said. “No one wants increased taxes. No one wants taxes at all. It’s a necessary evil.”
Ken Little, city sewer superintendent, highlighted how little Dry Ridge has been operating with currently.
“We are operating in the city with a one-man water department, a one-man sewer department, a one-man maintenance department,” he said. “We want better parks. This mayor has done a great job in seven years of operating with the minimum amount. We haven’t raised it.”
“I’m not saying I want to pay the tax no more than the next guy because I’d have to pay it too,” Little said. “But, if you care anything about this city and the future of it, we’ve got to put some money back sometime.”

Tim Reynolds, plant manager of Dana Corp. in Dry Ridge, expressed his pleasure with the council voting down the payroll tax increases.
He also explained how a 1.5 percent payroll tax would have impacted his employees.
“I have roughly 324 people in the plant in Dry Ridge,” Reynolds said. “We pay about $68,000 in payroll taxes currently at the half-percent mark. Had that gone into effect, our plant, which I think is perhaps the biggest employer outside of the school system, would have been paying about $205,000.”

As the city continues to look for more revenue or to cut expenses, Reynolds said he would be happy to sit down with city representatives to help in anyway.
Beverly Fryman, vice president of UAW Local 3064 at Dana, stressed that the council look at every aspect before coming to any future decision of tax increases.

“We want the city to grow,” she said. “We want the community to grow. I feel like we all need to work together on this. I want you all to make the right choice and right decision. What you did tonight, I appreciate. We don’t want Dana to go anywhere. We don’t want Gusher Pumps to go anywhere. None of the businesses here in the city do we want to leave.”