Officials warned: Keep income-tax-hike pledges

WARREN — Less than 24 hours after residents narrowly passed a 0.5-percent, five-year income tax increase with 51.6 percent of the vote Tuesday, officials were reminded they must work to make sure the estimated $3.5 million to $4 million in extra funds will be spent wisely.

Administration officials were told Wednesday morning that General Motors is eliminating its third shift and reducing the number of employees at the plant by more than 1,200.

Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-at large, council’s finance chairman, said officials have not been able to calculate the impact the car maker’s decision will have on Warren because they do not know how many city residents would be subject to the possible layoffs.

“This is why we could not give an exact amount that may be collected during the campaign,” Colbert said. “When the last tax passed, no one expected Delphi Packard Electric to reduce its operations.”

In addition to the possible loss of the income tax revenue, Colbert said there will be losses suffered by the city’s water and sewer departments because of the GM layoffs.

Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, said the administration also should keep watch on what is happening at Trumbull Memorial Hospital because its parent company, ValleyCare Health Systems of Ohio, is looking to sell some of its facilities.

“We don’t know if our hospital is one of the facilities it may be looking to sell,” Novak said.

Auditor Vince Flask said his office and the administration are monitoring the situation.

Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said the administration recognizes that increasing the tax from 2 percent to 2.5 percent is temporary, so officials plan to work with council to make sure promises made to supporters are kept.

“We are looking at hiring new police officers and firefighters,”Cantalamessa said. “We are expecting to implement a road repair program.”

Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward, warned the administration that citizens are expecting a return on their investment.

“To whom much is given, much is required in return,” Brown said.

During the city’s public comment period, Warren resident Mark Moran angrily told city council and various members of the administration that his grandfather was a former police officer and he was raised in the city.

“I love this city,” Moran said. “You wasted the two percent income tax you’re already getting.”

Moran called members of the administration and council thieves because of the way he believes city tax money is inefficiently spent.

“I don’t trust any of you,” he said

City Council President Jim Graham defended the administration and council, saying the extra money it will be gaining from the tax is absolutely needed to continue providing enough police and firefighters to keep the community safe.

“These people here love this city just as much as you,” Graham said.

Graham reminded Moran that the tax increase was passed by a vote of residents.

Franklin praised the work of union members  that took pay freezes for the next three years.

Paul Clouser, one of the founders of a citizens committee that reviewed and eventually supported  the city’s tax income tax package proposal, said the group will be closely watching what actions the city will take.

“We are going to hold their feet to the fire,” Clouser said.

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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