RITA receives first reading with amendment at Salem council

Council reserves the right to approved the final agreement

SALEM–City council held first reading Wednesday on a resolution authorizing Mayor John Berlin to enter an agreement to participate in the Regional Income Tax Agency for the administration and collection of the city’s income tax.

But the simple reading, which does not require a vote of council, didn’t come without a pair of proposed motions by Councilman Geoff Goll, one to table the resolution, which failed, and another to add a requirement for council approval for the agreement, which passed.

Goll argued that a RITA takeover only takes place during two time periods per year, Jan. 1 or July 1. With three separate readings on the resolution, which he said only gives the mayor authority to discuss an agreement, which would require council approval, he said that would move it into January. He said people’s livelihoods are affected and if RITA is tabled, that would give the four employees of the income tax department who will lose their jobs at least four or five months to retire or find other jobs.

Goll said if the resolution passes, the mayor will be firing four people. He said he supported giving people a period of time to prepare, for residents to understand the changes that are going to occur with RITA. If 1,000 people came to the income tax office this year looking for help, he questioned how RITA will handle that on one day of availability in the city. He also mentioned that not everyone has a computer and can file online.

Councilman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey said she’s heard the argument of no computer, but then questioned how those same people are filing their state and federal taxes, saying they’re probably being prepared and that same preparer can file for them with RITA.

Councilman Andrew Null asked about the start time for RITA, with Berlin saying there would be a six-month transition. He also said the resolution as written gives him the authority to enter an agreement. He didn’t think any further approval would be necessary by council.

The income tax office employs two full-time workers and two part-time workers. Dickey questioned if there’s a plan in place if RITA takes over. She said her concern about tabling was what happens if those employees retire and find jobs before RITA is in place, the city could end up with no one to handle the tax collections.

The motion to table, which was made by Goll and seconded by Councilman Ron Zellers, failed in a 3-4 vote. Goll, Zellers and Councilman Steve Faber voted for tabling while Dickey, Null, and Councilmen Roy Paparodis and Sal Salvino voted against it.

Then Goll moved to add the words “as approved by council” at the end of the resolution, with Zellers providing the second. Paparodis asked for what reason and Goll said the mayor said if the ordinance passes, council won’t need to approve the agreement.

“Council should have input when we’re putting people out of work,” he said.

The motion to require council approval of the agreement passed 4-3, with Goll, Null, Faber and Zellers all voting yes and Dickey, Paparodis and Salvino all voting against the addition of the wording “as approved by council.”

The legislation related to RITA will require two more readings for approval.

At the beginning of the meeting, resident Norman Uptegraph, who spoke out against RITA previously, addressed council again and said he made a mathematical error previously on the amount of savings being one-tenth of 1 percent of the budget when it’s actually .986 percent. He said the city of Euclid was trying to place the RITA issue on the ballot for their city and said every locality has it’s own set of rules with RITA.

He also claimed that the majority of communities using RITA had been in fiscal emergency. That’s not the case for local communities who have made the switch to RITA, such as Leetonia, Columbiana and East Palestine.