Payroll tax hike returns, gains support

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By Bryan Marshall

Four months after the Dry Ridge City Council shot down a payroll tax increase, the issue is back on the table.
The council voted 4-2 in favor of a first reading of an occupational tax ordinance on Nov. 4 that would increase the tax from its current .5 percent to 1.25 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
“Some of the board members got together and that’s what they wanted to do because the finances are getting so low,” said Mayor Clay Crupper. “I left it up to them.”
A second reading will be voted on at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18 during the council’s regular meeting.
Council member Sara Cummins brought the .75-increase motion to the table and it was seconded by council member Scott Bates.
Cummins and Bates, along with Kenny Edmondson, voted in favor of the ordinance while Jim Hendy and Carisa Hughett voted against the first reading.
Council member Fred Money abstained from voting, however, his vote counts for the majority.
“I feel more comfortable with a .5 raise,” Money said before the vote.
“I feel more comfortable with a .25-percent raise,” Hughett responded.
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.
A standing-room only crowd of more than 40 people had previously watched July 1 as the council voted against a payroll tax increase.
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.
“I was trying to get by as cheap as we can and get by,” Crupper said. “But, they said the amount of money that a .5 percent (increase) was going to raise was just going to be a Band-Aid and they needed a little more to do some things we’re going to have to do before long.”
A motion to increase the payroll tax to 1.5 percent during the summer was withdrawn after the council heard complaints from local employees.
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.
Bates and Cummins voted against withdrawing the ordinance.
A second motion to raise the payroll tax from .5 percent to 1 percent on July 1 also failed 4-2 with Hendy and Money voting yes and Bates, Cummins, Edmondson and Hughett voting no.
While members of the UAW Local 3064 at Dana Corp. and other local employees gathered at the meeting earlier this year to express their opposition to the tax increase, only a handful were on hand during the Nov. 4 meeting.
Many were unaware of the ordinance being on the agenda until the day of the meeting.
While using the increased revenue to expand law enforcement in Dry Ridge has been discussed previously, Crupper listed other uses for the funds.
“It will be used for our water tower because we’re going to have to do something about it before too long,” he said. “That’s about $170,000 to go in there and sandblast it and repair that water tower. That’s what a lot of the money is going to be used for. Then, down the road, it won’t be before too long we’re going to need an ambulance. So, we have to start saving for that if we’re going to provide the service we’re providing.”