Kent poised to return income tax request to Nov. 5 ballot

By Paula Schleis
Beacon Journal staff writer

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Kent Police Capt. Jayme Cole points out problems with the department's aging building. A income tax issue is on the Nov. 6 ballot to raise money for a new police station. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal)

Kent city officials said they’ve heard the voters who turned down a quarter-percent income tax increase last November, and they hope a revised version this fall will be more palatable.

City Council is expected to approve ballot language at its meeting Wednesday for a Nov. 5 issue that would stipulate any money raised by increasing the city income tax from 2 percent to 2.25 percent will be used only for a new police building. Once the building is paid for, the tax would end.

Previously, council sought a continuous tax with the idea of raising money for streets and sidewalks after the police building was paid off.

Lack of an end game doomed the previous request, City Manager Dave Ruller said.

“This is an important change because it is our response to the feedback we received from the community,” Ruller said. “Voters know [the tax] will go away when payment for the building is complete.”

The current building at Water Street and Haymaker Parkway is 88 years old. It would cost about $18 million to replace, officials have said.

At this point, maintaining the building is more costly than rebuilding, officials have said.

Studies of the building have found it to be deficient in several areas, including the jail, electrical system, plumbing, fire safety and the heating and air-conditioning systems.

Police Chief Michelle Lee said the department has faced challenges in recent years because of the building’s condition.

The final straw came when the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction notified the city it is not in compliance with current standards for public jails.

“Unfortunately, we run the serious risk of being shut down if we do not bring the outdated building into compliance with current standards for public jails,” Lee said.

The income tax increase would generate $1.3 million annually for the bond payment of a new building. The city has estimated a new facility would cost more than $18 million, but a building has not been designed.

Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or pschleis@thebeaconjournal.com.


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