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Sunday, March 10,2013

City Council takes stand against proposed statewide tax changes

By David DeWitt

Athens City Council passed a resolution officially opposing proposed statewide municipal tax code uniformity legislation that the city said consists of "unfunded mandates and substantial loss of revenue."

If the bill goes through the Ohio General Asssembly, city officials warned, the city of Athens will have lost more than $1 million at the hands of the state in recent years.

City Auditor Kathy Hecht has said the proposed changes in state House Bill 5 could cost the city upwards of $200,000 per year.

At-large council member Chris Knisely spoke about the resolution before it was adopted unanimously by council.

"It proposes certain tax uniformity rules for municipalities across the state," she said. "We're joining other municipalities across the state of Ohio, as we have been urged by the Ohio Municipal League that this has some very detrimental effects."

The OML has criticized the legislation for forcing municipalities to repeal their existing income tax ordinances.

"The mandate would hand complete administrative control over to the state, leaving no discretion to municipalities as to the administration, enforcement or reporting that is appropriate for its community and taxpayers," the OML states in a release. "This is a clear roadmap to future centralized collection of municipal income tax revenues by the state."

Knisely said that the city has already lost $473,000 in local government funds in recent years as well as $259,000 in estate taxes and $144,000 in tangible personal property tax.

If the city loses another $200,000, she said, it will amount to more than $1 million in lost revenue.

"With funds and budgets as tight as they are, we think it's worthwhile to support this resolution to oppose House Bill 5 to prevent additional loss of local municipal funds," she said.

Second Ward member Jeff Risner said he completely supports the resolution and is concerned about what he termed a "state government power grab."

He said that the right of taxation for a municipality is fundamental.

"We need to join the other communities in the same danger as us and say no, that's enough," he said.

Fourth Ward member Chris Fahl agreed that this legislation is usurping home rule.

"This seems to be a way of hitting us at the local level and giving yet another corporate tax break for many people," she said. "I understand that uniformity is a business issue, but having police and fire and streets you can drive on is a business issue also."

Hecht said that Gov. John Kasich's proposed state biennial budget contains even more cuts to local government in addition to this uniformity proposal and on top of the cuts the city has already taken.


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