Budget discussion turns into heated tax debate in Cuyahoga Falls

By Gina Mace
Special to the Beacon Journal

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CUYAHOGA FALLS: A city councilman’s suggestion that it might be time to raise taxes turned into a heated discussion when Mayor Don Robart objected.

The argument came during a discussion on the projected three-year budget continued from two weeks ago.

While the city’s finances are healthy now, Finance Director Joe Brodzinski said local governments, including Cuyahoga Falls, will lose $1 million to $1.5 million in state funding and estate taxes per year.

Councilman Vince Rubino wanted to know how that loss will be recouped.

“We’ll increase revenue, regionalize and cut expenses,” Brodzinski said.

Rubino had another idea.

“How about if we get the income tax to the level that Akron is?” Rubino asked. “Can we increase our income tax to the level of other cities?”

The income tax rate in Cuyahoga Falls is 2 percent. Akron collects 2.25 percent.

Robart noted that Akron’s extra 0.25 percent goes to Akron Public Schools.

“This is not the time to talk about raising taxes,” Robart said.

“When is the time?” Rubino asked.

“While I’m mayor, never,” Robart said. “I’m not going to put extra taxes on people who are already struggling.”

Rubino countered that, “I don’t want to wait until 2015 to find out that’s all the money we have left because we don’t have a plan or a goal.”

“Have you been listening?” Robart asked, raising his voice. “I feel like you have your ears plugged.

“The fact that we can’t give you specifics doesn’t mean we’re not doing things. A few years ago, we faced the same problem and we got through it. We will cut costs as necessary, we will raise revenue and we will get to where we need to be.”

Not having specific plans leaves City Council being asked to approve budgetary spending blindly without knowing if the money will be there, Rubino said. And cutting costs means cutting services to residents.

“What service?” Robart said. “Name a service that was cut.”

Robart said he doesn’t ask council to spend money that isn’t available.

Finance Committee chairwoman Carol Klinger, while not seconding Rubino’s call for higher taxes, said she understands his concerns.

“We’re all on the same page, but there isn’t a clear path of how we’re going to get there,” Klinger said. “We need to think long term. What is the bigger question? What is the bigger solution?”

Gina Mace can be reached at ginamace2@gmail.com.

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