The proposal to make West Chester Township into the City of West Chester was once a hot-button topic in this suburban community of about 60,000 residents and 3,000 businesses.
Local activist Bill Zerkle – a former township parks director who is running for trustee next month – plans to start collecting petition signatures to get the issue back on the ballot.
Voters nixed the issue three times, the last about 18 years ago.
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Zerkle thinks the issue has a good shot at passing if people get facts instead of “spin.”
“I think if everyone voted their interest, and we want that, it would pass by 80 to 90 percent,” Zerkle said. “We are not talking about additional taxes. We are talking about replacing our existing taxes with outside taxes that are already being paid to other communities.”
In short, Zerkle is talking about earnings taxes that thousands of people who work in the township but live elsewhere pay to the communities where they reside.
Earnings taxes would generate about $20 million a year, and that’s enough for West Chester property owners to quit paying about $800 apiece per year in levies to support the police and fire departments, Zerkle said.
“We’ve made ourself a host community. Forty thousand people plus come here every day to work and we say we don’t need it, go home and pay it, and that’s $20 million. The end result of that is that we have the police and fire levies,” he said.
Earnings that West Chester residents pay to cities where they work also would come back to the township.
Zerkle, who headed a 25-member study group that looked into the financial aspects of “cityhood,” said he just wants the measure to be put to a vote.
The group began collecting signatures last year. They have about 2,000 so far, and another 2,500 signatures are needed to get the issue on the ballot, Zerkle said.
“The community has the right to make this decision. Only the community can decide on a form of government,” he said. “If it doesn’t (pass), it’s up to the people, and that’s OK.”
The issue received support from at least one trustee in the past. But that has waned.
Catherine Stoker said she was in favor of it 18 years ago when West Chester was in the midst of an annexation fight with Sharonville over a commercial park. But she doesn’t see the need for it now because of annexation reforms.
Stoker doesn’t believe an earnings tax would totally wipe out the township’s police and fire levies. She thinks it would add to taxes. Zerkle disputes that.
Stoker also said people won’t get much more service from their government if the township turns into a city.
“West Chester essentially provides all city services except paying for trash pickup. Is that really worth paying one percent of your income? To get trash pickup?” Stoker said.
For the entire story, visit Cincinnati.com’s post “Make West Chester a city? Issue arises again.”
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