Residents and village officials received a showing of gratitude Nov. 7 for their collective effort in passing Issue 34, which raised Wellington’s local income tax rate by 0.75 percent.
According to unofficial results from the Lorain County Board of Elections, the measure passed by a 56 to 44 percent margin. Eight hundred and sixty-eight residents supported it while 690 voted against it.
“To the residents, thank you for your support on Issue 34 and what it means to this community,” said mayor Hans Schneider. “Thank you for what it means to this community, not just in the short-term but in our long-term future.
“While it does give us some relief here as village officials, it certainly doesn’t limit our responsibility. In fact, it increases it. We want to be good stewards as we move forward and we want you to hold us accountable.”
The village income tax rate will now be 1.75 percent, the first time it has gone up since 1972.
The Nov. 6 vote signaled a reversal in public opinion — in 2004, voters rejected a proposed 0.50 percent increase by a 738 to 297 margin.
Enacting a 1.75 percent tax credit for Wellington residents that work and pay local taxes outside of the village has also been part of officials’ stated plans.
Council president Gene Hartman suggested that legislation should be passed immediately and his fellow council members unanimously agreed.
“Gene brought that up himself. It wasn’t something we talked about doing before the meeting,” Schneider said. “I’m glad he did. We’ve talked about it and it was a promise that was made. The (voters) came forward yesterday and made a statement, so Gene came back and made his own statement of appreciation.”
The tax plan is expected to generate between $723,000 and $773,000 per year and help avoid ballooning general fund deficits that would have started in 2019.
According to village manager Steve Dupee, that deficit would have grown to $543,000 by 2022 without voters approving the increase.
A prospective move for the Wellington police department from its current home adjacent to village hall to a plaza at 147 and 149 East Herrick Ave. was also largely contingent on the fate of Issue 34.
The new station will provide officers more than five times the amount of space they currently work in.
No official timetable has been set for the move or purchase of the property but the village’s agreement for exclusive purchase rights expires Nov. 30.
Combined purchase and renovation costs total roughly $1.5 million.
“I want to give a huge thank you to the people in town,” said police chief Tim Barfield. “It was a pretty good turnout and it was a pretty good result. An over 11 percent margin is pretty decisive.
“I think the mayor did a fantastic job of engaging the public. I know my guys have been out there talking to people and making those connections. I learned a long time ago that people are willing to pay for value. One of the great things we have in this little town is our services.”
After Schneider had finished with his thank-yous, Hartman realized someone had been left out.
“A lot of the reason Issue 34 passed was because of the mayor,” Hartman said. “Mayor Schneider and his ability to communicate with everyone in every avenue and at every venue was vital. It was in person, on the phone, over social media, everything. A lot of times I’d read a comment and he’d be right there with factual, open, and honest information. The response was almost always positive from the person who had the question.”
Using a $50,000 annual salary as an example, a Wellington resident was paying $500 in local taxes to the village. If they worked in another community, the local taxes there were paid on top of Wellington’s.
Under the new plan, that resident will receive a total exemption from Wellington taxes as long as the rate in their work community is 1.75 percent or greater.
If the rate there is less than 1.75 percent, the resident will only owe Wellington the difference.
For those who live and work in Wellington, the plan does amount to a tax increase.