Businessman vows recall push if tax re-enacted
WASHINGTONVILLE–A village businessman and resident is threatening to pursue a recall referendum of any council member who votes to re-enact the village’s earned income tax if it is repealed next month.
At the regular village council meeting Monday night, Jim Santini said he will lead a movement to have any council member who votes to re-enact the income tax if repealed Nov. 6 recalled in the May election.
“You need to listen to the residents if they repeal the tax,” he said.
Council enacted a 0.5 percent earned income tax last December after four operational levies were rejected by voters since 2015. There is a petition on the November ballot for a complete repeal of the income tax.
Santini noted media reports that council members were considering re-enacting the income tax if it is repealed by voters. He said council is obligated to listen to the village residents, who have already said no to new taxes.
Santini directly questioned council multiple times if the intention is to re-enact the income tax if it is repealed, but received no response. After several moments, Mayor Herman Frank said that no decision has been made regarding action to be taken if the tax is repealed.
Santini responded with his intention to recall any council member who votes to re-enact the tax.
“I’m making that promise,” he said, referring to a recall referendum. “I made you a promise before (regarding the petition to repeal the tax) and I’m making you another promise right now.”
Councilman Jim McFarland is the only current council member who did not vote for the tax, abstaining from the vote.
The earned income tax generates approximately $70,000, significantly more than the defeated levies would have generated. Council enacted the .5 percent tax, described by council as a compromise from the proposed 1 percent earned income tax, to battle a 50-percent loss in Local Government Funding and a shrinking General Fund currently sitting at approximately $30,000, according to Frank. A negative general fund will place the village in fiscal emergency, according to Fiscal Officer Dale Davis.
“We need to stay ahead of the problem,” Frank said.
In addition to Santini, resident Bill Bertolette, who helped circulate the repeal petitions, also questioned why council is forcing the tax upon the residents Monday night, noting that council needs to curtail its spending from the general fund, which maintains the police department and lighting among other needs.
Last month, council president Ron Stevens suggested council consider taking action to prevent the tax collections from being interrupted if repealed by voters. He further suggested that council should consider increasing it to 1 percent.
Davis said if the repeal passed, there would be a 19- to 20-day period afterward for collections to halt. Solicitor Jeffrey Heintz said council would be able to re-enact a tax at any amount with emergency legislation that could be approved at the second meeting in November to avoid an interruption in collection.
The petition to repeal the tax needed signatures equal to at least 10 percent of the number of village residents who voted in the last governor’s race, which was in 2014. Thirteen valid signatures were needed, and a total of 43 were submitted to the Columbiana County Board of Elections, 39 of which were found to be valid.
In other business, council hired Alan Shaffer as a part-time police officer and Claude Berry as a part-time streets and water employee.
Council also scheduled Trick-or-Treat for 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 31.
The next regular council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at the administration building.