Dayton’s race for mayor heated up Wednesday night, as candidate A.J. Wagner criticized City Commissioners (including his mayoral opponent, Nan Whaley) for their 2011 decision to eliminate an annual $50 property tax credit for senior citizens and the disabled.
Speaking at the City Commission meeting, Wagner said he only learned about the change from a recent newspaper article. About 10,400 Dayton residents received the credit in 2011, its final year.
Wagner said the move was unfair because in 2006, the city asked residents to extend Dayton’s income tax at its 2.25 percent rate, with the promise that the senior and disabled tax credit would remain.
“That’s more than 10,000 promises broken and about $800,000 or $1 million in promised tax breaks removed from the pockets of our seniors and the disabled — including some of the poorest people in Dayton,” Wagner said.
City Manager Tim Riordan explained, as he had in 2011, that he recommended elimination of the tax credit because the state cut about $9 million in funding from Dayton’s budget in 2011. City Commission unanimously approved the move to help offset those cuts, and has saved an estimated $1 million in two years as a result.
“This was a time of exceptional circumstances … and as a result we had to take exceptional actions,” Riordan said.
Whaley said cutting the tax break was one of several tough decisions City Commission made in order to avoid further cuts to city services. She said Wagner was grasping at two-year-old straws in an attempt to show differences between the mayoral candidates.
“Two years ago we asked for a lot of public comment but really received none on this issue,” Whaley said. “When you’re talking about the protection of ambulance service, police and fire, services that seniors use every day, that was the priority of the seniors. … I think I’d do it again, frankly.”
Whaley’s fellow City Commissioner Matt Joseph was more pointed, calling Wagner’s complaint “a pretty transparent, shallow political ploy.”
Asked where else the city could have saved significant money, Wagner pointed to the $600,000 that City Commission approved for legal fees after breaking a parking agreement with airport rental car companies. The city lost that case this summer.