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Warren puts off tax renewal

Adminsitration wants to make 0.5 percent hike on income permanent

WARREN — City council has put seeking a renewal of the five-year, 0.5 percent income tax increase on hold — for now.

Council President Jim Graham said council will not vote on a proposed resolution allowing the city to place the renewal on the March 17 primary ballot. The income tax increase was passed in 2016. City Auditor Vince Flask and Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa last month sought to persuade council to pass a resolution allowing voters to decide whether they want to make the tax permanent.

Cantalamessa, at the time, told council members only four elections are scheduled in which the tax issue could be placed on the ballot and passed before it expires at the end of 2021. It can only be placed on the ballot three times.

Flask said the decision not to place it on the ballot is council’s to make.

“I believe it to be fiscally responsible to find out what the voters want as soon as possible so we can plan for the future,” Flask said.

If city council wanted to pass a resolution to place it on the March ballot, it would have to get the passed resolution to the Trumbull County Board of Elections by Dec. 18. If the renewal legislation has not been presented to and approved by board of election officials, the city will have to wait until the November 2020 election.

“We do not want to rush this,” Graham said. “We want to make sure people know that we’ve done exactly what we told them we would do when the tax was passed in 2016.”

Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward, questions why the administration waited until after the November election to seek having a renewal placed on next year’s ballot.

“Why do it now?” Brown questioned. “They should have presented this to council to be discussed before November’s election. It just looks suspicious.”

Councilman Ken MacPherson, D-5th Ward, does not believe the administration had enough votes on council to approve the resolution as an emergency measure, which would have been needed to get the resolution to the Trumbull County Board of Elections by Dec. 18.

“I would have voted against this because I don’t believe it should pass as an emergency,” MacPherson said. “An emergency is something that’s unexpected and must be done right away or it is something crucial. This does not fit those characteristics.”

MacPherson said more discussion is needed.

“There is the question about keeping it temporary or making the tax permanent,” MacPherson said. “There has been a lack of any kind of debate. Rushing a vote is non-conducive to the democratic system.”

Supporters of the tax have argued the city has done everything that was promised to voters during 2016’s campaign for the tax, including filling staffing of the police and fire departments and funding road improvements in areas that traditionally did not receive funds from either the state or federal government.

“It is one thing to make promises to hire people, but what was the positive changes made?” MacPherson said. “I’m in favor of the tax, so long as there are positives that can be measured.”

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