In order to fund improvements to fire and emergency services, the city of Oxford is considering a November levy issue to increase income taxes.
According to councilman John Harman, City Council is proposing an income tax increase for Oxford residents that would fund the second shift of part-time firefighters, a shift that was once a voluntary position.
“The city found that we were having trouble recruiting volunteers for the night shift,” Harman said. “Basically, it was decided that we could offer some part time positions for the night shift, however six months later we still haven’t found a way to pay for it.”
According to Harman, because there is not enough money in the budget to fund the second shift, the city will be looking at a $700,000 budget deficit by the end of the year. As a result, City Council has been looking for a way to fund the program.
A special meeting is scheduled for public input on June 29, during which City Council will discuss the need for a November levy issue to increase income taxes.
“We will need a little over $1 million to pay back last year and to keep the (second shift) moving forward,” Harman said. “The other thing to keep in mind is that if the levy is passed in November, it wouldn’t be collected until 2011.”
While Harman believes the increase in service has been beneficial, cutting response time by several minutes, he also believes that the city should have settled on a way to cover the expense before putting the plan into effect.
“I don’t like that they put the plan into effect without a way to pay for it,” Harman said. “I’m still not convinced that it needs to be on the November ballot, and I have six other ideas as to how to increase revenue without increasing taxes.”
According to Harman, one program funding option would be accident cost recovery.
“Right now if someone causes an accident they don’t have to pay for it, whether it be roping off the accident area or any of that,” Harman said. “Basically, under the new system if you cause an accident, you or your insurance would have to pay for it.”
Harman said another option would be to incorporate certain areas of Oxford that are currently classified as township into the city limits, allowing the city to collect higher property tax for these areas.
“No matter how it is funded, I think having improved emergency services is essential for Oxford,” Miami University junior Cameron Innis said. “Even just a few minutes of response time could be the difference between life and death.”