Norwalk residents concerned about being 'double taxed' with new change

Cary Ashby • Nov 30, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Norwalk residents expressed their concerns to council members Tuesday about the possible change to their income tax credit.

Presently, when residents who live in the city but work in another taxing district, Norwalk doesn’t receive any income tax. However, those people still receive city services. Norwalk officials estimate this is the case for about 20 percent of the taxpaying residents.

The proposed ordinance would mean in tax year 2017, residents would get a 75-percent tax credit in Norwalk. After that, it would be 50 percent. If the ordinance passes, residents essentially would play taxes in two places.

Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan started Tuesday’s work session by saying the ordinance is an option to generate more revenue for the city. He also said if Norwalk continues on the same trajectory, the city could face financial challenges in the future and the proposal “could close the gap.”

Residents told council members and city administrators they are concerned about being “double-taxed.”

“It’s not right,” said Baker Street resident Cliff Sams, who wanted to know why he might have to pay twice the tax.

Sams is self-employed, but works in several cities. His wife Christine said she was offended from the perception that she isn’t pulling her weight when it comes to receiving city services.

Nikki Hotchkiss said she feels like she would be punished by the proposed income tax credit — aka a reciprocity tax — since she would be paying more taxes. A Norwalk resident since 1988, she had worked in the city until her job moved her to Avon. Hotchkiss said it feels like “being taxed to death.”

Finance director Diane Eschen said many taxpayers were shocked to learn Norwalk currently isn’t getting any money when they pay taxes in the cities where they work.

In other business, council discussed a resolution requesting Huron County Auditor Roland Tkach to certify the tax value and revenue that would be generated by a .9-mill replacement levy for maintaining the Norwalk Fire Department. Now generating about $67,700 annually, the present levy — a .9-mill renewal — pays for part of the wages in the fire department and equipment. It has been on the books since 1976. 

If council passes the resolution next week, it would mean the replacement levy would be on an upcoming ballot.

In other fire department news, the city has signed a contract with Mull & Weithman Architects, Inc. out of Columbus to do the architectural design and engineering for the new station. Duncan said there had been months of extensive negotiations over the design contract.

“M & W brings many years of experience designing municipal facilities including police and fire stations. Joe Weithman and BJ Mull, the owners of the firm, have completed several fire station projects and sit on the jury that selects the Firehouse Magazine Design Awards and presented a program at the 2016 Fire Station Design Conference in Anaheim, Calif.,” Chief John Soisson told the Reflector in an email.

"Since the election, we have been working through the selection and contractual issues. This has been a long process getting all the lawyers to agree on scope of work, liability and the language included in the documents. However, in this litigious world it is important that we have all our bases covered.

"Once again, none of this would be possible without the work of the Blue Ribbon Committee. Hopefully, I can update you more frequently as this project begins to move in the right direction,” Soisson said.

Today, the mayor and Soisson plan meet with the firm to initiate the design phase and get a time line.

Also, council could suspend the longevity benefit for city employees for 2017 and not pay it. In the ordinance, which goes before council members Tuesday, 2017 would be counted for the purpose of determing an employee’s years of continuous service. 

Council has suspended the benefit for the last five years.

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