As I am pecking out a blog post for our inaugural issue of the Barberton Journal, it occurs to me that to write a brief summary of ONE WEEK’S events in the world of Barberton politics, is akin to trying to fill a shot glass with a firehose. Information used to come to us as rumors or in dribs and drabs. A week ago, I was hoping to spark (yet more) discussion about whether a property tax of 3.5mils, for three years is a good thing for us. Barberton Citizens needed to decide by the March 2020 ballot. I figured Barberton ,at the minimum was looking at $1.5million dollar deficit. And there would be a significant time gap between when a tax took effect and when Barberton actually collected it. In the meantime, expenses don’t stop.
After talking to a councilman-elect, I discovered that the situation is better than Barberton thought it was… Fortunately, more than six months ago, the mayor, realizing the shortfall, DID budget for the loss of tax. But because he was up for election, he didn’t fill in the rest of us. But he DID prepare. It *looks* like we have a surplus. But… the looming deficit.. IS still there, but it will be less painful than initially thought.
Other Things happened. The proposed tax was increased to *4.9mils* with a *four year* expiration . And the Barberton city leaders took the unprecedented step of seeking feedback through an online survey. This hit the local Facebook boards. I was heartened to see this new transparency from Barberton City Hall. Opinions exploded but the feed back from my New Haven neighbors’ Facebook pages didn’t express the optimism that I had felt and had cautiously hoped to see from others. I could understand their frustration at this administration’s [widely] perceived business and money mismanagement. I figured I’d do my homework on the tax before I got into the fray with my acid keyboard.
Brand-new transparency by our elected overseers was a very good omen, and something I and many others had been asking for – loudly, daily – for at least two years. A new era of open dialogue had appeared at Barberton City Hall overnight, ushered in by the slate of new councilmen-elect; Justin Greer, Bebe Heitic and, last but not least, the inimitable and bold Shaun “Rocky the Light Switch Killer” Jaber. Like a good citizen, I decided to do my bit, by filling out my survey, and working the math with a pencil and paper.
Personally, I shrugged off the the extension from three years to four as inevitable – this extension of a year, was not wholly unreasonable. It avoids the tax renewal during an election year. No politician – good or bad – wants to campaign under that sword and I certainly didn’t want to be the poor hack, knocking on doors for my preferred candidate, knowing that would be the first question. Fair enough.
Secondly, the increase to 4.9mil, from 3.9mil amounts to about a $35 tax difference in a home worth $100,000. To the city bookkeepers, however, that 1.0mil difference is incredibly significant. It would haul in a total revenue of about $1.7M.
All things considered, I – for the FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE – decided to support this new tax increase. Had city hall stayed dark and our new councilmen-elect adopted the usual vow of silence and Star Chamber voting habits, I wouldn’t have supported dropping a dime in the collection plate. Given the extraordinary steps both sides have taken – citizens packed the Barberton city finance meeting to speak, the Barberton City Council killed a proposed income tax that would have been a tombstone for Barberton and Barberton council agreed to put the property tax to a popular vote(!) . The least I could do after the loss of longtime employer B&W , was to help the city out of this bind. Barberton needs to pull together in times like these to give our Barberton City a chance to recover. Unlike the proposed Barberton income tax, we can re-evaluate the efficacy of this property tax in four years.
It’s important to remember that, going forward, we have much more transparency and oversight on the how the money is managed. And three new Barberton Council members who understand transparency.
What do you think? If you’re against the tax, why? Other than a new tax, what are our options to cover the revenue loss? What program cuts can we sustain? Should Barberton have an Open Check Book online like many cities including Akron?
Trust has to be earned. Todays social media allows transparency. And openess builds Trust.
Barberton Leaders are encouraged to use this site to get their message out. Tell the voters why this tax is needed. and to communicate their viewpoint on other issues.
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