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Levy could help Ironton for future generations

In July of this year, Ironton City Council passed legislation that will place on the November ballot a request of the City of Ironton to increase the current 1 percent city income tax to 1 3/4 percent and, if passed, the municipal fee will be reduced.

Why?

Over the last 60 years Ironton’s population has dwindled from about 20,000 to approximately 10,500. Over the last 40 years Ironton has lost almost all of its industry and around 4,000 good-paying jobs are gone with the demise of those industries.

For those not old enough to remember we will try and list some: The Dayton Malleable, Semet Solvay, Honeywell, Lawrence County Hospital, Alpha Portland Cement, Ironton Steel, Matlack Trucking, Meehan Steel, Kroger, Tiptons’s Grocery and Bakery, Wilson Sporting Goods, Mid-Valley Supply, A&P Grocery, PBK Distributing, Ohio Bell Telephone, AEP Electric and many ancillary businesses that these larger companies supported and that could not survive on their own.

The city downsized from 150 full-time employees to 100 employees in 1979 and has remained there for 40 years.

What is the answer?

The answer is to grow the population and entice new commercial and industrial business to locate in Ironton. This will help rebuild the tax base that we have lost over the decades with the goal of reducing this voter-approved increase in the future as the tax base grows.

How is this accomplished?

Our economic development team is the Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation. They are working for Ironton with the goal of creating jobs in new commercial and industrial opportunities. We have seen some growth with the Gateway Project, including a Holiday Inn hotel, a Frisch’s Big Boy, the Armory Smokehouse BBQ and soon, a second hotel.

How long will Ironton’s growth take?

No one knows. What does Ironton do in the interim? One choice is to continue the band-aid approach we have witnessed over the last 40 years to minimize the burden on the taxpayers.

However…

That approach has seen the City of Ironton build a debt of $24 million, soon to be $35 million, as the final EPA-mandated sewer separation Phases IV and V are completed. Of our current debt, $2 million is associated with general fund debt and the remaining balance being utility debt (sewer, water, etc.)

So…

What improvements can the citizens expect if the increase request passes? This council intends to address Ironton’s crumbling streets with over one mile of street paving curb-to-curb each and every year. Also, upgrades to our water and sewage plants, along with more manpower and equipment that is desperately needed to maintain city services.

In other words, we want to move forward, rebuild our infrastructure with the anticipation of recruiting new business to restore our tax base. We will fight to prosper, not continue to tread water like in the past,

It is entirely up to the citizens of Ironton to give the city and future generations a great place to live. The current 1 percent income tax was enacted in 1969. Except for a voter approved temporary 1/2 percent increase to 1 1/2 percent for 1982, 1983 and 1984 only to retire debt during a state-imposed fiscal emergency. Across most of the state, income taxes range from 1 1/2 percent to two percent for most municipalities. Finally, and most importantly, the $11 million EPA-mandated project Phase IV and V will be paid entirely from these new monies (a $500,000 yearly payment), instead of another increase to the utility bill.

We will continue to enlighten the citizens of Ironton on the issues as November nears.

Signed,

Ironton Council members Chuck O’Leary, Jim Tordiff, Bob Cleary, Rich Blankenship and Ironton Finance Director John Elam.