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RITA remains topic at council

SALEM

The Regional Income Tax Agency came up again at city council, with one resident saying the city’s making a judgment error, one councilman refuting social media claims and another saying he supports letting the people decide.

Councilman Dennis Plegge, who voted yes for RITA at his first ever meeting, said he wouldn’t change how he voted, but he also said if the issue goes to the ballot, he will honor the vote of the people. He said the issue should have been there in the first place.

“There’s too much compassion on this right now for it to not go to the people,” Plegge said after the meeting.

During his remarks during Pleasure of Council, the new Third Ward representative said it wasn’t just a financial decision for him to vote for the switch to RITA for income tax collections, but was based on what he knew at that time.

He said he visited the city income tax department and spoke to the two full-time employees to see if they were going to leave before the office closes and learned that the one has not said anything publicly about retiring and the other one was not offered or turned down another job.

Plegge said he would like to see a plan from the income tax department to save money. He also said there ought to be more communication, saying he was the only council person he knew of who visited the office and talked to the workers. If council’s action to have the mayor contract with RITA survives the referendum attempt, the income tax office at city hall will likely close and RITA will take over July 1. If the issue makes the November ballot, council’s action will be suspended pending the outcome of the vote. The income tax office employs two full-time workers and two part-timers.

Councilman Sal Salvino voiced concerns he had over social media posts regarding RITA, saying there’s a lot of misinformation and wrong statements being made, particularly by the circulators of the petition to place the issue on the ballot. He refuted a statement regarding access to federal returns, saying that RITA has access to IRS information from federal returns for residents. Another comment claimed that RITA will keep any interest on the city’s money, but Salvino said he was told by RITA there will be no loss of interest money.

He also brought up a mistake made by former council president Mickey Cope Weaver regarding the income tax rate, one that she already corrected on social media and in a recent Salem News story. He said she needs to correct what she said on the television station where the mistake first aired.

Salvino said people need to do the right thing and be responsible for what they’re saying.

“We need to be truthful in what we’re saying,” he said.

Salem resident Jim Kincade, who owns several properties in the city, said he bought his first rental 12 years ago and moved here and called the city unique because every government department he’s had to deal with treats him with respect and he gets the information he needs.

He asked council if anyone took the time to look at the finances for RITA and said he did. He said the agency has developed into a bureaucracy with a lot of managers and a growing number of employees and obligations.

Kincade said the board and trustees of RITA are all from the Cleveland area and Salem will just be one of many communities. He said Salem won’t have a voice.

He said the city is making a grave error in judgment and talked about how easy it was to go to the income tax office, saying people won’t want to go to Youngstown to RITA. He praised all the offices in city government, not just the income tax office.

He said the open door policy in Salem city government is a luxury and something to take pride in, adding “I have never been treated by government employees so well in my life.”

mgreier@salemnews.net

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