Council member: RITA makes sense for Salem
To the editor:
On Tuesday, Oct. 1 the Salem City Council Finance Committee made the decision to move forward with the Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA), by at least having a vote of the full council. After two years of discussion it is time. After two years of those in-depth discussions, it seems clear to me that RITA makes sense for the city of Salem. That is why I voted to move forward with it.
Contrary to assertions of the city treasurer, RITA is not a private enterprise. Rather it is a not-for-profit governmental authority, audited and regulated by the state of Ohio.
The city auditor initially claimed RITA would cause the city to lose $1,200 per month in lost interest income. By the auditor’s own admission, this turns out not to be true. It’s a notion that officials of RITA also flatly reject.
Annual savings to the city of between $50,000 and $80,000 may well be conservative. For example, the mayor of Girard appeared at our Finance Committee meeting, to report savings of $400,000 in year one with RITA. Girard’s general fund is half the size of Salem. Niles is another example of success. In 2018 the city’s income tax revenue increased by nearly $1 million over the previous year.
Moving forward with RITA would require we close the city tax office where we currently open up every single tax return by hand and manually process all of the tax filings of the city. This process is not an efficient way of performing such a vital function of the city.
Contrary to the assertions of Councilman Geoff Goll, closing this office would not cause us to lose taxpayer services. RITA has pledged, in writing, to provide staff at city hall for the very in-person services that the city has been providing.
Of greater significance, however, Salem city taxpayers would be afforded 24/7 online (electronic) taxpayer services. Far more citizens would have the convenience of filing their taxes electronically with RITA then who came to city hall for in-person services.
The only downside to this move is the impact it could possibly have on staff. I fully understand and empathize how painful staff cutbacks are.
To be honest, had we moved on this matter in a more timely fashion, our full-time tax clerk could have transitioned into a vacancy in another city department. In addition, other fair and equitable options exist for the head of the tax office as well. Neither would have to experience unemployment, as claimed by Mr. Goll.
In my final analysis, this city’s elected officials have an obligation to make decisions that are in the best interest of the city as a whole. Some of these decisions are easier than others. However, we need to be accountable for our official acts by at least casting our votes on the record.
Only one councilman, Mr. Goll, refused to do this. Rather than vocally casting aspersions toward those members of council with whom he disagrees, perhaps Mr. Goll follow council’s standard rules and procedures by having his statements and his votes placed on the record. That way we can all be publically accountable for our official actions.
Councilman at Large,