Delinquencies could pay extra charge if collections outsourced

NILES – Taxpayers who fail to pay up could face an additional 25 percent charge on top of their tax bill if the city outsources delinquent collections.

Council tabled legislation Wednesday that would have OK’d the move, requested by Treasurer Janet Rizer-Jones, as a way to stretch resources in the tax department.

The department has been working to collect delinquencies, Rizer-Jones said, but is also devoting time investigating who should have been paying taxes during the six months the tax investigator was laid off and getting its affairs in order since the resignation of the former treasurer in May.

Taxpayers owe about $144,000 from tax years 2015, 2014 and 2013, according to documents provided by the commission.

An agreement with National Enterprise Systems Inc., the company that collects delinquent bills for the city’s billing departments, would not cost the city a thing, Rizer-Jones said.

The move is also recommended by Lisa Smathers, the income tax director, the tabled legislation states.

Councilman Barry Steffey, D-4th Ward, chair of the city’s finance committee, said he tabled the legislation to give the committee more time to review the move.

“They have been traditionally against outsourcing, so I want a chance to hear what they have to say, to ask some questions and make sure we facilitate the proper decision for the city and the taxpayers,” Steffey said.

The city has collected $4,998,281 in income taxes since Aug. 31 – 2 percent more than projected for that time of year – and is expecting to bring in $7,191,133 before the end of year, according to budget documents. In 2015, the city collected $5,941,389 – the passage of the income tax increase and the state’s new laws on tax collections were factors in the projected increases.

The treasurer’s office has been under intense scrutiny this year. The former treasurer resigned after questioning by the city’s fiscal supervision committee, appointed by the Ohio Auditor of State after the city was placed in fiscal emergency in 2014.

Robert Swauger was accused of failing to reconcile books and much of Rizer-Jones’ first few months in office has been about getting the reconciliation process down. And, now that the laid-off tax investigator is back, ensuring those applying to build in the city are also registering their workers with the tax department, currently, and during the time she was laid off for six months.

The fiscal commission has been requesting detailed reports from the department’s monthly accomplishments – ever since Mayor Tom Scarnecchia decided not to outsource the majority of its operations to the Regional Income Tax Agency.

Rizer-Jones said the department is working hard to fulfill their obligations and outsourcing delinquencies – at no cost to the city – will help.

And, in order to make sure all new contractors and sub-contractors are paying their fair share, Rizer-Jones said she implemented a change in procedure, which requires the builders to file with her office before receiving a building permit.

rfox@tribtoday.com