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DR Council approves payroll tax hike

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By Bryan Marshall

A payroll tax increase that was previously shot down was approved Nov. 18 by the Dry Ridge City Council.
The council voted 5-1 in favor of a second reading of an occupational tax ordinance increasing the tax from its current .5 percent to 1.25 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
Council members Sara Cummins, Scott Bates, Kenny Edmondson and Jim Hendy voted in favor of the ordinance while Carisa Hughett voted against the first reading.
Council member Fred Money abstained from voting, however, his vote counts with the majority.
Hendy had originally voted against the tax increase during the ordinance’s first reading.
A standing-room only crowd of more than 40 people had previously watched July 1 as the council voted against a payroll tax increase.
With a 1.25 percent payroll tax, employees within Dry Ridge will be paying, $312.50 if they earn $25,000, $437.50 if they earn $35,000 and $562.50 if they earn $45,000.
Dry Ridge is the only city in Grant County to have an occupational tax.
In the 2010-11 fiscal year, the tax brought in $329,563.
During the past fiscal year, $346,695 was generated from the tax.
In the 2013-14 city budget, Dry Ridge is estimated to only have $32,912 in its General Fund at the end of the fiscal year.
Keith Kinmon of Kinmon Steel questioned Mayor Clay Crupper and the council members about the specifics of what the money raised by the tax increase would be used for.
“If you’re asking for more money, I think a lot of people are concerned if you had any particular projects earmarked that you definitely were going to use money for or are you just going to put it in the general fund,” he said.
Cummins read a list of projects that the city council would like to fund with the additional revenue, including:
• replacing sidewalks as needed
• maintenance to Dry Ridge Fire Department’s ladder truck
• painting of city’s water tower
• new ambulance
• potential hiring of co-op or new employee for front office and maintenance department
• park improvement
• streets light installation
• general city cleanup
• website that would allow residents to pay bills and taxes online
• research options to have 24-7 police protection by providing officer(s) when Chief Rick Kells is off.
“Some of these things are an absolute have to,” Cummins said. “They are going to have to happen and soon. Some of them are things we would really like to happen. We want you all to know that this money is not going to get spent just like that. The majority of the money is going to get set back so we are not in this position ever again. Hopefully, with us raising it to a total 1.25 percent, we won’t be in this position again.”
A few local employees spoke out against the tax increase during the meeting.
“I just have a problem with paying that much of an increase,” said Ed McArter of Gusher Pump. “My problem is, you have a nice list, but there’s nothing on that list that benefits me. I don’t mind paying for something when I get something in return, but I’m not getting anything in return for the extra cash I’m paying out.”
Beverly Fryman, vice president of UAW Local 3064 at Dana, said she believed the council was asking for too much of an increase.
“I know you obviously need a little money and I don’t have a problem helping out,” she said. “But, we are trying to get new business all the time and we have to be competitive. I just feel like maybe you’re asking for a little bit much.”
Cummins also told attendees that the council is discussing other ways to solve their financial issues, including cuts.
“It’s not employee cuts,” she said. “There are certain things we pay out every year. For example, we pay the Industrial Authority money to bring in business to the city. I think they said the last business they brought in was Cracker Barrel. So, I’m working into seeing if the contract can may be broken because it’s such a big chunk of money for nothing. So, it’s not like we’re doing nothing. We are looking into making cuts.”
Hughett, the sole council member who voted against the tax increase, attempted to make another motion to cut costs as well.
“I understand what they’re saying about making cuts,” she said. “I do think we can make cuts on our end. I think we should do it to prove to them that we are trying also. So, I’d like to make a motion to cut overtime for the front office temporarily until we can get together and decide on revised salaries.”
The motion, however, was not brought to the table for a first reading because it needed to be added to the agenda prior to the agenda being approved.
Hughett asked that the issue be placed on the agenda for the council’s next meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 2.