Riverside income tax increase request on ballot would pay for fire, police services

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Oct. 16—RIVERSIDE — Voters here will decide whether to raise the city's income tax in the Nov. 2 election from 1.5% to 2.5%. The city says the raise is needed to pay for police and fire services.

As part of the levy, the city will restore the 100% tax credit to citizens.

That means anyone who lives in Riverside and works in a city with a 2.5% income tax or higher will not pay any further income tax to Riverside, but those who work in, for example, Huber Heights or Fairborn, where the income tax is lower, would pay the remaining income tax to Riverside, said interim city manager Chris Lohr.

Lohr said 45% of Riverside voters would pay the same or less income tax, based on 2019 numbers. Social security and pensions are not taxed in Riverside.

The city council also recently passed an ordinance that would not allow city council to lower the tax credit from 100% in the next 10 years if the levy passes.

The city estimates the tax will bring in an additional $3 million directly to police and fire departments.

At a community meeting about the ballot issue on Sept. 28, Riverside fire chief Dan Stitzel said the additional funds would help the fire department with staffing.

Currently, the Riverside fire department uses a combination part-time, full-time department. About 20 to 23 firefighters are part time and 19 firefighters are full-time. Stitzel said there is a national shortage of firefighters that is also affecting Riverside.

"It's been a challenge to keep the number of part-time firefighters here when there's just not a lot of them out there anymore, because of the shortage, and also many are looking to get full-time jobs elsewhere," Stitzel said.

The department trains the part-time firefighters, Stitzel, said, but many of them leave once they have the training to get a full-time job.

Stitzel also said the department has more than a 60% increase in the number of calls the department get since 2006, when the current size of their fire department was authorized. Because it's been difficult to maintain staff, Stitzel said they don't even have the current level of staffing that they had in 2006.

He said he wants to switch the department to primarily a full-time department, which would help maintain staff.

Police chief Frank Robinson said the police department is also looking to add three police officers, including one detective.

Robinson said the additional staff would cut down on overtime but would add a school resource officer and help the department have enough time to investigate property thefts and other crimes. The department would also be able to replace some cruisers and computers, as well as maintain their body camera program.

"Our main goal here is to be more efficient and obviously more effective for the citizens of Riverside," Robinson said.

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Eileen McClory

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