RITTMAN, Ohio (WJW) — A contentious meeting on taxes, as angry community members came face to face with city leaders Monday after learning they have been overtaxed for 15 years.
It was standing room only inside the Rittman Recreation Center as residents got a chance to voice their concerns and ask questions to city council members and other city leaders. Most were upset over a letter they received telling them the city of Rittmand had been overtaxing municipal income tax.
They had been paying 1.5% in income tax, when they should have been paying 1%. The 1.5% income tax was established in 1977, but was only supposed to last for 30 years.
Residents are demanding a refund of that money, but the city says they can only give them back one year of payments.
Despite some of the anger in the room, city council said it needs to put an issue on the ballot in May, asking voters to bring back the 1.5% rate.
“For some people this is thousands of dollars, if one of us were to not pay you our tax for 15 years, you would put a lien on our house, you would garnish our wages, or you would charge us interest,” said one resident.
“You are upset that it seems the government, the city is playing by a different set of rules (YOU ARE!), you’re not wrong, that’s Ohio Revised Code,” explained Rittman law director Matthew Simpson.
“If this city extends you mercy, if there is one person or many persons who owe you back taxes, would you also wipe their slate clean?” said another resident as the crowd applauded.
The error was discovered when city leaders were considering a ballot measure to raise the city income tax to 2%.
But during the city’s investigation, city leaders discovered that since 2008, the actual rate should have only been 1%.
“When we found this, we didn’t believe it, I personally said ‘there’s no way that can be,'” said the law director.
Residents will get a refund for the 2022 tax year, but nothing more.
“At this time, we are following Ohio Revised Code, which advises a one year statute of limitations on the collection of such taxes,” said Rittman finance director Matthew Bubp.
Rittman city leaders say if the rate stays at 1%, city services will suffer, although some residents don’t buy that explanation.
“We hope that they are going to listen to us tonight and understand how important it is to stay at that 1.5% for the community, for infrastructure, to make sure we can run the community properly,” said city manager Bobbie Beshara.
“None of us here tonight were involved with this in the past and none of us were even employed by the citizens when these events occurred,” said city council president Melissa Shows.
“They still have their grubby hands out, asking for more … hearing that to me sounds like they’re saying ‘we don’t want to do our job to make it work at 1% and cut back on careless spending,” said another resident.
The city council took two votes Monday; one to return to income tax rate back to 1%, which is basically a formality, and the other on whether to let the voters decide in May to increase the tax rate back to the 1.5% or not. Both passed.