Cleveland Mayor Wants Increase in Income Tax Rate

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by Nick Castele

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is pushing for an increase in the income tax for people who live or work in the city, saying the city needs more revenue to improve services while meeting the rising cost of employee salaries and benefits.

Jackson said the increase would yield about $83 million more for the city each year. Income taxes make up 60 percent of the city’s operating revenue, and collections have been rising since the Recession.

But the mayor said the budget is still being squeezed by dwindling property tax receipts and cuts in state assistance for local governments.

“So what we want to do is solve our immediate problem, and then have the ability to be better,” Jackson told reporters at a Tuesday press conference.

Jackson said the city could invest new revenues from the tax hike into plowing snow, fixing roads and responding to emergency calls.

Still, the city anticipates other costs this year: implementing the police consent decree, hosting the Republican National Convention and possibly having to pay out legal settlements.

Jackson described the challenge in dire terms, saying Cleveland will cut services if taxes remain the same. The mayor said he doesn’t fear backlash from businesses.

“I fear backlash if they can’t get to work because the snow is a foot high and I can’t pick it up,” Jackson said. “I fear backlash if on the way to people going to jobs, or companies wanting to locate, they’re going through the surface of Mars on our streets.”

Any increase would need approval from voters. Jackson said he’ll consider asking city council to place the measure on the ballot either this fall or in a special election next year.

Cleveland last increased its income tax rate in 1981.

Read the mayor's 2016 budget estimate here.

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