The City of Akron has announced that starting the week of April 5th, all Akron Firefighters and EMS will wear ballistic vests and helmets on calls that are deemed more dangerous and threatening to their safety.
Mayor Dan Horrigan was quoted in a press release, saying, “This is the unfortunate but necessary result of changes in our landscape, including the increasing frequency of volatile and dangerous emergency situations. One of our highest responsibilities is to the safety of our first responders. Our firefighter/medics can’t help others unless they are safe and protected themselves.”
The protective exuipment was made possible, in part, thanks to the passage of Issue 4, the income tax increase, back in November. The press release noted that the Northern Ohio Golf Charities also provided a $29,000 to cover costs as well. According to the press release, each Akron EMS unit will be outfitted with four sets of ballistic gear (helmets and vests), "to be used whenever conditions warrant added protection." Those conditions, as explained by the city, would include active shooter situations, or other calls that have the potential for escalating into violent situations.
“Ballistic protection for the safety of our personnel has been a priority for the Akron Fire Department for many years,” Fire Chief Clarence Tucker said. “Providing our officers with this gear will allow them to more safely respond and care for victims at the scene of a shooting or other violent event.”
The City of Akron has released details, including maps and the budget breakdown, for this year's multi-million-dollar road resurfacing project.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Kenmore Construction secured the contract for the work, at nearly $6.4 Million; they'll begin work in mid-May.
Akron officials are making the case for the proposed 0.25 percent income tax increase that is expected to appear on the ballot later this year. The $16 million projected annual revenue increase will be earmarked for police, fire, and road improvements.
Chief Clarence Tucker of the Akron Fire Department joined Jasen to explain the dismal condition of several of his firehouses, discuss additional needs that could be fulfilled by the added tax revenue, and talk about what his department has done to be fiscally responsible.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, during a speech at Akron's Fire Station #2 Thursday morning, announced that he is proposing a quarter-percent income tax increase to be put on the November ballot.
Mayor Horrigan cited several reasons for the "necessary increase," including deteriorating roads and Akron Police Department and Fire Department needs. "The City of Akron continues to lose about $15 Million every year from the elimination of fair tax sharing in the state of Ohio," the Mayor said. Since the Recession of 2008, Horrigan added, the city has lost a total of $80 Million in unrealized income tax revenue.
If approved by City Council, the issue would be placed on the November ballot for Akron residents to vote on. The proposed increase would raise the current income tax rate of 2.25% to 2.5%.
The City of Akron hasn't had a general income tax increase (see next paragraph) since 1981 for "essential city services", Horrigan said in a prepared release. He says the city desperately needs this proposed increase for new, updated police cruisers and fire trucks; to support the APD body camera database; and to improve roughly 45 miles worth of Akron roadways, just to name a few things.
Akron voters approved a boost in the municipal income tax by .25 percent in 2003 dedicated to fund an $800 million dollar, 15 year plan to rebuild local schools as Community Learning Centers by the Akron Public School district. That project has been underway but has been scaled back with the loss of student enrollment across the district. State funds are used as well as local funding generated by the Akron income tax percentage taken for the school rebuilding project.
Mayor Horrigan touted his adminstration's efforts to continually do "more with less," but says the increase is necessary to maintain safety efforts and keep up with regular road maintenance and repaving efforts. Akron Police Chief James Nice and Fire Chief Clarence Tucker were on hand for the Mayor's announcement Thursday, and they both expressed their full support for the tax increase.
The Mayor will officially present his proposal to Akron City Council this coming Monday, June 26th.
Below is the press release from the Mayor's office regarding the proposed increase:
Akron, Ohio, June 22, 2017– Today, Mayor Horrigan announced his proposal for a ¼% earned income tax increase to fund capital and operating needs for police, fire/EMS, public service and roads in the City of Akron. The income tax proposal, if passed by City Council, would be placed on the November 7, 2017 ballot for approval by Akron voters.
“Over the last several years, the City of Akron has continued to do more with less. We have made cuts across the board, reduced personnel, and consolidated services to reflect the City’s revenue challenges. However, we simply cannot cut our way to prosperity,” Mayor Horrigan said of the proposal. “It has been 36 years since our last income tax increase for essential city services, and as we seek to grow our population and revitalize our neighborhoods, our city needs and deserves this funding. The time is now.”
On average, the funds would be spent between police (1/3), fire/EMS (1/3), and streets (1/3). “It is essential that we provide our police and fire/EMS personnel with the equipment and facilities they need to protect our neighborhoods and keep us safe. And, we simply cannot allow our roads to deteriorate further if we expect our neighborhoods and business districts to thrive,” Mayor Horrigan said.
The City of Akron has lost $15 million per year in fair tax-sharing from the State of Ohio and lost an estimated $80 million in unrealized income tax revenue since 2008, as a result of the recession. Without replacement funding, the City would be forced to make difficult budgeting decisions that would impact City services across the board.
“As promised, I’ve listened closely to the Akron community over the past two years, and the feedback I’ve received is clear—we must invest in the long-term vitality of our neighborhoods. This fair and reasonable increase will allow us to significantly improve streets across the city by paving an average of 43 more miles of roadway each year. It will provide the funding needed to maintain current public safety staffing levels and replace deteriorating equipment and facilities for our Police and Fire Departments.”
Police Chief James Nice and Fire Chief Clarence Tucker joined Mayor Horrigan to express their full support for the proposal and detail the dire needs of their departments—including the need to launch a body-worn camera data storage program, replace two aging fire stations, at least one pumper truck, and 63 police cruisers in poor condition.
The additional ¼% income tax only applies to income earned at a job and will not affect retirement/pension income, social security, or other government benefits. Two-thirds of the funding raised through income tax collection is paid by commuters who work in Akron but live in other communities. If successful, this proposal would raise Akron’s income tax to 2.5% – consistent with cities like Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton. The cost of the additional ¼% tax is $1.68/week, for a resident earning Akron’s median income of $35,000.
Council President Marilyn Keith joined the Mayor in making today’s announcement. “I am proud to stand with Mayor Horrigan in support of this reasonable and much-needed income tax proposal,” President Keith said. “These funds will support the core services we provide as a City, and address the issues most important to our residents – public safety, the quality of our roads and neighborhoods.”
The Mayor concluded by renewing his commitment to continue to control spending. “Even with an income tax increase, we must continue to explore ways to spend smarter, and prioritize funds where they’re needed most.” The legislation authorizing the ¼% income tax increase will be introduced to City Council on Monday, June 26th .