While Chester City government is hoping for a fresh financial start for the New Year, it will potentially put its own residents in the line of fire that is debt by raising taxes on residents who work.
At this week’s final meeting for the year, Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland and Chester City Council were expected to vote to approve a series of revenue-oriented ordinances including one to raise the Earned Income Tax (EIT) from the current 2.10 percent level to 2.75 percent; a 31 percent jump in residents’ “salaries, wages, commissions, net profits” and “any other” resident-earned compensation.
Plainly put, the tax hike is anything but a remedy in a city where the median income is $27, 365, as of 2015; the numbers also reveal a $216 decline from 2013’s recorded median income of $27, 581, according to census.gov and city-data.com. The decline could also point to a decrease in the same years’ populations.
To add salt to the wound, residents have paid, and will continue to pay, double the EIT rate of non-residents, people who are merely employed in the city but reside elsewhere. Non-residents currently experience a 1.10 percent rate, but that will be lowered to 1.05 percent for 2017.
Sources familiar with city government workings say the vast majority of non-residents working in the city are police officers, firefighters, some employees at City Hall and many employees of local non-profit groups and many employees in these categories earn salaries close to, or into, six-figures.
Thinking it can attract more businesses, City Council intends to lower the millage rate to 3.3 “for retail” and 2.5 mills “for wholesale,” a public notice reads.
“The city is being very selective with what the Act 47 plan suggests,” one source said. “so the city wants to raise taxes on its residents, but not on non-residents and businesses? This is absolutely ludicrous!”
Downplaying some people’s accusations that many police officers and firefighters are “simply collecting a check” while not living there, a source familiar with the police department says many officers are almost pushed out of the city because of its faulty resources.
“There’s no good housing stock here and the (Chester Upland School District) is failing,” the source said. “Many officers and firefighters with young children opt to live in areas with better school districts.”
The source further explained that many police officers and firefighters “took a 30 percent pay cut to be able to live outside the city.”
Coinciding with the source’s assertion, case documents from a 1992 civil trial between the city and the Chester police union, FOP Lodge 19, ruled in favor of police officers’ request to live outside city limits under the condition that they receive “$400 less per year,” according to the case ruling.
The source said that after the ruling, officers who took the pay cut were later reimbursed “10 percent every year” over the course of three years, bringing their wages to a full 100 percent. Even now, the source said, “New employees are hired at 70 percent (salary if they) live outside the city.”