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Though Supportive of Tax Cuts, Some Council Members Angry at Erlanger Mayor's Email

Members of the Erlanger City Council blasted Mayor Tyson Hermes and his plan to lower some tax rates set by the city.

A first reading of the proposed ordinance to lower the property and tangible tax rates was heard at a special meeting of the city council on Tuesday night.

Property taxes are currently $3.57 per $1000 of value and tangible property, as in cars and boats, is $6.09 per $1000 of value. The ordinance proposes cutting the property tax to $3.47 per $1000 of value, and the tangible tax to $5.99 per $1000 of value.

"This is a very manageable decrease," said Mayor Tyson Hermes, who has been dedicated to cutting taxes since he was elected mayor. "This is not a huge cut. This has not been done by cutting city staff or services to our residents. We have cut our spending, tightened our budget, and exceeded our growth expectations. I am very excited about this."

But the reading of the ordinance was not without fireworks. The committee meeting that preceded the actual council meeting had several council members once again very irate with Hermes.

The anger stemmed from an email Hermes sent to a few friends in the Tea Party last Wednesday evening outlining information from the Northern Kentucky Area Development District about what the city can do with the tax rates, either keeping them the same, or raising them the allowable 4 percent, or a level in between. Hermes indicated that he thought some council members would be against cutting the tax rate and would be for raising the taxes. Since Hermes had just gotten the go­-ahead for the tax cut that day from City Administrator Marc Fields, Hermes asked his friends to attend the special meeting to support the tax cut. Since he also asked his friends to spread the word, one of his friends posted the email to the Tea Party website.

This resulted in several people seeing the email and sending it to the council members who were not aware of the plans to cut the tax rate. Council members felt that the email was critical and unflattering to them.

"Why did you share these tax rates with the Northern Kentucky Tea party in this letter before discussing them and sharing them with City Council?," asked council member Vicki Kyle, who has served on council for 20 years. "Would you care to identify who the 'some council members' are?"

The confrontation continued as Kyle spelled out question after question indicating the amount of hurt and humiliation she and some others felt when members of the community told them that they felt the mayor undercut the council.

"How dare you speak for us?," said Council member Patty Suedkamp, referring to the email. "It was unethical!"

Councilman John Dunhoft said he felt the incident destroyed any confidence the council had built up in the mayor and that some members of council now feel that the mayor does not trust them.

After about a half hour of lambasting, Councilman Bill Howard asked council to get back on track and proceed with the meeting.

During the meeting several citizens got up to speak about the tax cut and universally they were in favor.

"We have lived here since 1997, and seen steady tax increases through the years," said Janet Chambers. "For many citizens, tax increases make a difference between eating and existence. Please do some serious soul searching before raising taxes."

Mike Chisenhall thanked council for all they do, and said if they would cut taxes he would love it. James Brown said he was tremendously excited the city had this opportunity to decrease taxes, and was disappointed that the mayor did not communicate with council first, because he felt they wanted to work with him.

"Raising taxes every year is not the answer," said Ed Nordloh. "And I was a little embarrassed by the words that were spoken."

Dan McElhaney praised the mayor for his efforts to lower taxes and asked council to please support the tax rate cut.

After the meeting Mayor Hermes admitted to being shocked by the strong reactions of council. He did not expect his personal email to be broadcast on the website and felt that he was going to inform council about the tax cut and discuss it at the committee meeting.

Kyle said they would get over this, but she wanted to make the mayor realize he had to be more careful, and communicate with council.

The second reading of the ordinance will be in two weeks.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor