Council opposes state tax legislation

City council voted Tuesday to oppose pending state legislation for municipal income tax uniformity, stressing the city favors business and simplifying the tax process, but not at the expense of city revenue.

“We’re looking out for what’s best for the city,” Councilman Rick Drummond said.

The resolution in opposition to H.B. 5 had been recommended by the Finance Committee of city council, with city council approving the resolution in a 6-0 vote. Councilman Clyde Brown was absent.

After the vote, Council President Mickey Cope Weaver acknowledged how hard the vote was for some council members who own their own businesses or have involvement in businesses who have to deal with the various municipal taxing districts in the state.

City Treasurer Bob Tullis and city Income Tax Administrator Fred Pamer have been warning council about the possible repercussions from the pending legislation, estimating a possible loss of $300,000 in revenue per year due to a section dealing with net operating loss carry forward, which would allow a business to carry a loss over more than one year, which the city does not currently allow.

The provision is calling for a net operating loss carry forward of five years.

Tullis said he spoke with state Rep. Nick Barborak and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni and they both recommended the best way for council to let them know how they feel would be to pass a resolution.

Tullis said nobody is opposed to business and everybody wants uniformity, but the rub comes in when that causes cities to lose income. The bill as written is not revenue-neutral, he said, and most of the major cities oppose it.

Councilman Dave Nestic questioned Tullis regarding some of his comments, with Tullis explaining that the overall tax system does not favor business and the city wants to help businesses, but at the same time, the city does not want to reduce its income by a significant amount. If they could come up with a way to have the uniformity without taking away income for the city, then it would be different.

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey said she knows how cumbersome the tax system is and “would fully support a bill that would help take care of that mess if it didn’t penalize the cities.”

The resolution talked about the legislation being the means to push for a centralization of municipal income tax collection and Nestic said he doesn’t think any more of that is needed in Columbus.

In other action, council held first reading on an ordinance to amend sections of the fringe benefits rules for non-represented employees and city officials, specifically dealing with part-timers. Council also approved two ordinances related to the summer street paving program, which will be advertising for bids shortly.

Council heard from four visitors, including Highland Avenue resident John Reid who complained about the speeding on Highland from Third Street to 10th Street. In what he called a tongue-in-cheek request, he said he was petitioning to have the speed limit changed from 25 mph to 35 to 45 mph so the speeders won’t have to feel guilty about breaking the law. He said everyone ignores the speed limit and “they go up and down the street like a bat out of you-know-what.”

He watches his two young grandchildren three days a week and they play in the yard and he’s concerned about their safety. He said he’s asking for someone to come up and take care of the problem, saying he asked the police to set up a speed trap and was told they can’t do that and that they don’t have the people to sit up there. He referred to the police reports he reads in the newspaper about how they’re spending their time and questioned why they can’t put a car up there.

“You don’t see speeding in Washingtonville, you don’t see speeding in Canfield for a reason,” he said.

Councilman Brian Whitehill, who heads the Traffic & Safety Committee, said he would speak to the police chief on Reid’s behalf.

Former councilwoman Mary Lou Popa also addressed council, this time asking for the city to purchase a leaf pickup machine, saying the city previously had a leaf pickup machine. She said the bags residents have to purchase are costly and fall is coming.

City worker Doug Moffett of the traffic & safety department told council about some help he recently received with some city signs in front of St. Paul Church where some sidewalk work was recently done. He wanted to publicly thank Bob Hickey and his employees for the work they did to remount the signs.

Dr. Michael Traina, of the city Income Tax Review Board, requested council confirm the appointment of Bruce Haddad as the third member of the board. Traina and fellow member Bruce Williams had selected Haddad as their appointment to replace Joe Skiba, who resigned. Their appointment required council confirmation, which council approved.