RITTMAN, Ohio (WJW) – In a letter to Rittman residents city officials announced it overtaxed municipal income tax for the past 15 years, and refunds would not be issued for the total years of human error because it would “bankrupt” the city.
“I was absolutely shocked,” said resident Malissa Bise. “Their job is to serve us. Their job is to know the laws. If they made a mistake, they should pay it back.”
The letter dated to taxpayers on Jan. 19 states: “Since 2008, Rittman city income taxpayers have been taxed at the rate of 1.5 percent rather than 1.0 percent.”
Residents cannot receive a full refund due to a one-year statute of limitations for financial recovery.
“Adds up to about $300 dollars a year but over the span of 15 years that adds up,” said a lifelong resident who requested to remain anonymous. “For people that don’t make a lot of money, that’s a lot of money.”
By law, municipal income tax rates over one percent must be approved by voters. The letter states in the third quarter of 2022, city officials learned that back in the 70s voters approved a 1.5 percent rate for 30 years set to expire in 2007. However, the expiration date was omitted when changes were made to the city’s tax code in 1996.
According to the letter sent to residents, the excess money collected over the years paid for city services provided by police, fire, and EMS among other services. The letter stated the information is known, due to a yearly audit to ensure tax money is spent properly.
“It was always hard because I worked as a nurse and I had three kids,” said Bise. “I lived really paycheck to paycheck so anytime I did the taxes I had to make payments and everything else to try to get those paid. It was literally taking food out of my kid’s mouth.”
City officials stated the city’s finances are tight and cuts to services may be considered given the windfall of money they will no longer receive. A community discussion is encouraged to return to the 1.5 percent income tax rate.
Taxpayers can request a refund for 2022 income tax payments. A community meeting is planned for Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. at the city’s recreation center to answer questions regarding refunds.
“They said it was human error and people make mistakes, but when you make a mistake you make it right,” said Bise.
Rittman joined the Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA) in 2021. RITA was notified of the error in the Rittman tax code in early January.
According to Amy Arrighi, Executive Director of RITA, it is too early to determine the monetary amount of refunds that might be issued. In 2022, the .5 percent the City of Rittman collected in income tax was approximately $850,000 dollars, Arrighi said. Rittman’s total income tax collections in 2022 were a little more than $2.5 million.