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Ohio - Members Help Preserve Funding for Public Services

Winning Team - Local 1632 activists (left to right) Brian Ridley, Cynthia Johnson, Pres. Doug Moore and Ernest Smoot mobilized their union to help pass a tax increase that saved public services and jobs.

Local 1632 Activists
Local 1632 activists (left to right) Brian Ridley, Cynthia Johnson, Pres. Doug Moore and Ernest Smoot mobilized their union to help pass a tax increase that saved public services and jobs. (Photo credit: Joe Weidner)

Columbus, Ohio

At a time when many cities around the country are cutting budgets to make up revenue shortfalls, members of Council 8 helped persuade Columbus voters to raise their taxes to save critical public services.

This was a major victory in a city that hadn’t changed its 2 percent income tax rate in 27 years. A half-percent rate hike—to be paid by city residents and those who work in the city—was unlikely to pass without a concerted effort by its supporters. That’s why members of Locals 1632 and 2191 stepped up to the plate, helping to make thousands of phone calls to potential voters and delivering 5,000 door hangers to homes in high-turnout Democratic precincts.

The need for new tax revenue was critical. Earlier in the year, Mayor Michael Coleman (D) warned that Columbus faced mass police and fire layoffs—and severe service cuts—if residents failed to approve the income tax rate increase intended to raise more than $96 million per year.

The efforts of Council 8 members proved essential: Out of more than 89,000 votes cast in last summer’s special election, the tax increase passed with a margin of just 3,050 votes.

“This shows that with strong city leadership, a solid message, and a mobilized union membership, people will raise their taxes to save city services,” says Doug Moore, president of city workers Local 1632 (Council 8). “Clearly, the citizens of Columbus feel their quality of life is important and are willing to pay for strong pubic services they see as a value.”

Even The Columbus Dispatch cited the union’s leadership in helping to unite the community behind the tax hike, which is expected to provide funds to reopen 11 city recreation centers and bring back some of the more than 170 AFSCME members who were laid off in 2008.

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