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Delinquent Taxpayers and Lack of Long-Term Planning Hot Topics for Garrettsville’s Village Council

Garrettsville – –  Minutes from both the regular May 8, 2013 meeting and the June 1, 2013 special council meeting which authorized the mayor and clerk to enter into an agreement for the provision of dispatching services for the Windham Village Police Department were approved.  Immediately after, discussion ensued about the state of the village’s finances.  The current report shows that approximately $94,000 has been expended more than current revenues.  Councilman Matson asked clerk/treasurer Nancy Baldwin, “Are we in trouble?” to which she replied, “We could be”.
Each year, revenue has increased, however so have expenses.  Councilman Klamer voiced concern that the village has not created a long-term plan to address the fiscal future of the village.  Another concern Councilman Klamer voiced was that current retirees in the village pay no income tax on their pensions.  He stated that as the current residents age and retire, less revenue will be collected.
Mayor Patrick disagreed with Councilman Klamer’s premise.  He stated that new houses are being built and younger families are also moving into the village.  Their income replaces or exceeds what is being lost to retirement pensions.
Mr. Klamer loudly stated that for these new households to make an impact for the future, they will need two wage earners making at least $100,000 each.   He compared the village’s budget to how the school district is run and told council [they] needed to plan ahead better, looking at more than “just next year”.
Councilman Matson pointed out that a large contributor to the problem is those who have not paid their taxes.  He stated that the current ordinance does not provide adequate guidelines on collecting past due monies.
Currently $135,000 is outstanding in past-due revenue.  Because of efforts by the village’s income tax clerk Valorie McCullough and solicitor Michelle Stuck, approximately $22,000 has been recovered so far this year, $60,000 in 2012 and another $56,000 in 2011.  The fact remains that there is a large sum of money still outstanding.
Some residents on a payment plan pay as little as $5 monthly toward their outstanding balance.  When questioned by Councilman Matson, solicitor Stuck confirmed that penalties and interest are waived for the people on payment plans.  However, it was also pointed out that some of these repayment plans are ineffective and some continue to default on the taxes due.
Councilman Matson suggested that they needed to enact legislation making repayment mandatory within a 24-month period.  Solicitor Stuck pointed out that if someone is more than a year or two behind, they would not be able to afford that type of payment plan and will end up in jail, then there will be no money coming in.  “That’s their problem, I pay my taxes,” Matson retorted.
Council president Steve Hadzinsky stated that they needed to come up with something practical.  Stuck said that that was what they try to do, she gave an example that if someone is 4 years delinquent, they have a four year repayment plan, but they must also stay current with all taxes.
McCullough told council that if people default on their payment plans, the information goes back to court, and warrants are issued for their arrest.  Both McCullough and Stuck stated that they know of several people with current warrants for their arrest yet they pass through the village every day and don’t get arrested.  ”The police department knows, they are notified.” Stated Stuck.
“This is a small town.”  Added McCullough.  “Arrest a few of these people, word gets around, it would get their attention.”
Baldwin stated, “As clerk/treasurer, I will not let this village go down, no way!”  Klamer reiterated, “I don’t see us (the village) as having a real plan for anything, we just kind of mosey along.”
Baldwin suggested at least a five-year plan was needed and that the heads of each department should be responsible.  Klamer and Hadzinsky both agreed and added that training as well as defined goals and objectives needed to be provided.
Baldwin stated that the largest drain on finances (over half the budget) was for the police department.  Mayor Patrick stated he had talked with many other mayors and that is common everywhere.  Justifying the large expense, he further explained that for keeping the village residents safe, the equipment, technology and training now required is costly.
Solicitor Stuck agreed to write proposed legislation to address delinquent taxpayers and present it at next month’s meeting.
In other business, Mayor Patrick invited Austin Johnson to the front of the room where he congratulated him and read Resolution 2013-20, which commends Johnson’s efforts for his successful completion of his Eagle Project.  Johnson’s project was the construction of a flagpole in the Brosius Rd. Park near the Paul Pavilion.
During round-table discussion, Council President Hadzinsky announced the need for the creation of a Village Services Vision Committee, for which he volunteered himself and asked for other volunteers.  Councilwomen, Chris Anderson and Becky Harrington agreed to join him on the committee.  Mayor Patrick announced that there will be a brush pick-up prior to Summerfest as well as on the first Monday of the month.  He also stated that the street department will be cleaning in preparation for Summerfest.
If you’d like to know more of what is happening in your community, please attend a meeting.   Please note, the next regular Village Council meeting will be held on July  10th at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall.

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