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Barberton considers tax increase as revenue woes loom large after departure of manufacturer

Posted at 6:05 PM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 18:17:36-05

BARBERTON, Ohio — Amid revenue woes brought on by the pending loss of the city’s largest employer and taxpayer, Barberton city leaders are considering a property tax hike instead of a previously proposed income tax increase. The revenue-generating proposal would help offset looming drops in available money with the planned departure of industrial manufacturer, Babcock and Wilcox, which currently accounts for 10 percent of Barberton’s annual tax revenues.

At Monday night’s city council meeting, Barberton Mayor William Judge scrapped plans for an income tax hike to 2.5 percent as well as a rollback of an income tax credit for city residents who work outside Barberton. Instead, the mayor opted to propose a property tax increase. How much of an increase that city leaders will eventually request is still to be determined.

The issue of a tax increase has been a hotly debated issue in the working class city for weeks. Mayor Judge said no elected leader, whether it be a mayor or city council member, relishes or enjoys in requesting more money from their constituents. However, Mayor Judge said the city’s impending loss of B&W has necessitated the conversation.

After making several cuts internally, including eliminating summer temporary jobs, Mayor Judge said the city is faced with two options: raise taxes or cut services, both of which, the mayor admitted, are unpopular.

“[The city] stays on top of a lot of stuff. That’s nice to see. On that part I am rooting for the taxes because that’s what taxes are supposed to be for,” said Tony Gamblin. “But, then again, somebody is always trying to get what’s in your pocket.”

Daniel Sanchez, the manager of his family’s restaurant, Casa Del Ranchero, said he understands that a business — much like a city — only works when there is money to fund it.

“It’s what everybody is talking about. I try not to get too involved in it but with B&W leaving and everything, [the city] has to get money somehow,” Sanchez said. “Something has got to be done. It’s going to come from somewhere. It’s got to be figured out at some point in time. It might as well be right now.”

Last year, Barberton was stunned when B&W announced it was moving its headquarters to nearby Akron, potentially resulting in 600 jobs moving out of the city. At the company’s peak, the one time industrial manufacturing giant employed more than 1,000 people, generating as much as 20% of Barberton’s annual tax revenues.

Although the city’s downtown has experienced an uptick in economic activity and new business investment, that is a significant void to try to fill, the mayor said.

“I’m kind of mixed about it. I know [the city] needs to generate more income,” Gamblin said. “It’s always something. It’s just life as the little guy.”

There will be a special session of the Barberton City Council at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The public is invited.