By DENISE GRANT
Tempers flared at Tuesday’s Findlay City Council meeting, as the city’s practice of allowing some individuals and businesses to skip estimated tax payments, without penalty, came under scrutiny again.
Councilwoman Holly Frische, R-1, a longtime opponent of the practice, was the first to raise the issue Tuesday, again insisting that the practice treats city taxpayers unfairly.
Frische’s attempts to debate the issue Tuesday were met with repeated attempts by other council members to stop the discussion.
At one point, Councilman Tom Shindledecker, R-At-Large, called a point of order and insisted the council meeting wasn’t the proper venue for the debate. Following the meeting, Shindledecker could be heard yelling at Frische.
Shindledecker said council already has voted against calling an informal committee-of-the-whole meeting to discuss the tax matter. He was referring to a vote taken by council members via email in late January about whether to hold the meeting.
Five council members responded to an email sent by Denise DeVore, who is administrative assistant to City Law Director Donald Rasmussen and who is also the council clerk. She sent the email on behalf of Council President Ronald Monday on Jan. 23.
The email vote was 3-2, with Councilmen Shindledecker, Jim Slough, R-4, and Tim Watson, R-7, voting against a committee meeting. Councilmen Dennis Hellmann, R-2, and Jeff Wobser, R-At-Large, voted in favor.
On Tuesday, Monday repeatedly called for a limit to council’s discussion of the issue, and Councilman John Harrington, R-5, admonished Frische for continuing to challenge the tax practice.
Harrington said Frische has failed to gather support for her position, and that most council members feel the practice should remain in place.
Harrington said her argument is “falling on deaf ears.”
Wobser, however, said Frische is not the only council member with concerns about the practice. Wobser was especially critical of the lack of policy and procedure governing the practice.
State auditors have recommended the city develop a policy for the practice, which is now at the sole discretion of the city tax administrator. Wobser said without any rules in place, the practice could be misused.
The debate over the practice erupted in late January after Andrew Thomas, the city tax administrator, reported that city income tax collections were down in 2017 by about $1.8 million.
Some individuals and businesses are permitted to skip estimated tax payments to avoid overpaying the city, which is the practice being called into question.
On Jan. 23, The Courier published opinion columns on the issue written by Mayor Lydia Mihalik, who supports the practice, and Frische, who opposes it.
Mihalik continued to argue Tuesday that the practice helps stabilize Findlay’s budget.
Otherwise, the city is receiving, and could potentially spend, money from inflated estimated payments, money that eventually will have to be returned.
Mihalik said if council doesn’t like the policy, it should change it.
“It’s your policy,” she said.
Mihalik said the city’s Income Tax Board is working on developing a set of written procedures for the practice.
The Income Tax Board will meet today at 1 p.m. on the third floor of the Findlay Municipal Building, 318 Dorney Plaza.