Income tax proposal draws heat in Rogers

ROGERS – Village Council received a little push-back from some people, including a former colleague, over plans to impose a 1 percent income tax.

Bill Crawford told council at its April 8 meeting they should just dissolve the village and let it become part of Middleton Township rather than continue to burden residents by imposing an income tax.

“When do you plan on putting this on the ballot,” he asked.

“We’re not going to put it on the ballot,” said Mayor Sharon Hebron.

“You mean you’re just going to shove it down our throats?” Crawford asked.

Village officials said they have no choice in the matter since by law a 1 percent income tax is not subject to a vote of the citizenry and can only be enacted by council.

That may not be true. Matt McClellan of the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office was contacted by the newspaper, and he said state law only requires that any income tax in excess of 1 percent be placed before voters to decide, “but it (the law) is silent on income taxes below 1 percent.”

According to McClellan, municipalities have the choice of placing an income tax of 1 percent or less on the ballot since there is no legal restriction preventing them from doing so. “The option is there,” he said.

Crawford was joined in his objections by former councilwoman Delores Silverthorn, who noted the push for an income tax comes after village voters approved a new 2-mill operating levy last November to help fund operations. The tax generates $4,600 per year.

“We just got taxed this year … but a 1 percent income tax is quite a bit of money for households around here,” she said, adding perhaps council should consider a 0.5 percent income instead.

When Crawford asked how much a 1 percent income tax would generate, Hebron said they would know that once they hire the Regional Income Tax Agency to perform an analysis based on the number of people who live and work in town. RITA would be in charge of collecting the tax if it is imposed.

Hebron said they are pursuing an income tax as another way to generate the revenue needed to provide additional services, such as enforcing the village’s ordinances requiring residents to keep their properties tidy.

“We’re at the point where we have to fight for our town, and that’s what I’m going to do,” Hebron said.

The village’s 2013 budget of $68,829 pays for a mayor, council, fiscal officer, solicitor, three part-time street department workers, and to keep the street lights on. Police protection is provided by the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office.

Hebron said they would like to do more. “We have to start somewhere. We just can’t throw our hands up in the air and quit,” she said.

“I think you can,” Crawford said.

Hebron said once RITA is able to estimate how much they believe the tax will generate, the figures will be made public at a meeting and posted around town. “We’re not trying to hide anything,” she said.

Crawford asked if the speed-monitoring surveillance service council is contemplating contracting for might raise enough money to make an income tax unnecessary. Fiscal Officer Dale Davis said that is a possibility.