2013: The View From Marietta City Hall

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2013 will soon be here.

WOUB News wanted to find out what mayors from Southeast Ohio think will be keeping them busy in the year ahead.  

"Well, I think every city, village, whatever, no matter what size, financial problems are facing us all the time," said Joe Matthews is the mayor of Marietta. "of course, the state has already taken the death tax away, which we received quite a bit of money there."

Now, he says, a proposed bill would take a city's taxes and reallocate the money.

Matthews says the proposal means cities would have to pay the state a percentage to access those funds.

"I hope every city and village and hamlet in the state of Ohio would be totally against this and lobby profusely against it," said Matthews. "I hope these two things can be corrected, but I don't think the death tax will ever come back, but we cannot let the state take this income tax, what they're trying to do, from us."

Those are the most notable challenges for 2013, "the really, really big ones", says Mayor Matthews, who is a Democrat.

The fiscal cliff crisis playing out in Washington D.C. will have an effect on state's programs, explained Matthews, which could in turn affect programs in Marietta.

Matthews held office from 1992 to 2003, during relatively stable financial years.

He returned to the role after eight years.

"This year has been not too bad, we've been very lucky compared to a lot of areas. Our unemployment rate is lower than the state and the national average here in Marietta," said Matthews.

New businesses have also begun to spring up in the city, says Matthews.

Matthews says the drilling boom is here, as far as Marietta is concerned, and the economy is taking a turn for the better.

"We're getting a lot of the benefits of it right now, because the fracking industry is coming here," said Matthews. "It's on the borderline of Washington and Monroe counties right now and our hotels and motels have been full for several months now because the oil people are staying here and checking things out. Our tourist and convention bureau hotel and motel tax is up about 60 percent over last year. We're very fortunate in that respect."

The state funding cut that Matthews spoke about – could that mean a local tax hike?

No, he says.

"I would never say I want to have a tax increase. That's almost a death tax for you yourself," laughs Matthews.

He says he believes with an employment increase in the future and more hotels being built in the area, the city is in good shape.

"I would say no, no taxes. Or no increase in taxes, I would say," said Matthews.

Mayor Matthews says 2013 could find him spending more time in Columbus. And he's happy to make the trip if he can stop legislators from passing a law that would, in his opinion, interfere with local tax collection.

"I will be one of the ones on the front line to go to Columbus and testify against it if I have to," said Matthews.

In part two of our series, we'll talk with Athens city leaders.