By DENISE GRANT
Findlay Council held an informal committee-of-the-whole meeting Tuesday to again mull over the city’s practice of refusing estimated income tax payments from certain individuals and businesses.
While no action was taken, a consensus is growing among city officials that a written policy is needed.
Council members Holly Frische, R-1, Tim Watson, R-7, and Jeff Wobser, R-At-Large, continued to push Tuesday for both policy and procedure.
However, Findlay Tax Administrator Andrew Thomas questioned the necessity of a written policy. He said it’s something he can “eyeball within minutes.”
Councilman Dennis Hellmann, R-2, had called for Tuesday’s informal meeting. Hellmann said last month he didn’t understand the practice and was hard pressed to explain the refused payments to constituents.
Hellmann said the issue, which has proven to be a flashpoint between council and city administrators, is bound to keep resurfacing.
The city has been refusing estimated payments since 2009, at the discretion of the tax administrator.
The city tax department has reported that two individuals and 54 businesses were allowed to not pay estimated tax installments, for a total of $1.08 million in payments, for tax year 2016.
State auditors have repeatedly urged the city to put the practice in writing.
Thomas said he refuses payments from individuals or businesses with a history of overpayment or difficulty estimating their taxes. He said it’s a useful tool for protecting the city against over-collections that have to be repaid.
He said it also makes the city’s estimates of tax collections more accurate.
Thomas said he has never been approached by an individual or business asking to be included in the practice.
Frische has repeatedly insisted that the practice needs written policy and procedures to make it transparent and fair, and to avoid the appearance of misuse.
At a February tax board meeting, Mayor Lydia Mihalik said a draft version of a policy was being reviewed by an auditing firm.
However, both Frische and city Auditor Jim Staschiak argued that the policy should be developed by the tax board, and then reviewed by auditors, not vice versa. Not all tax board members had been shown the draft in February.
City tax board members include Mihalik, who is the chairwoman; Staschiak; City Treasurer Susan Jo Hite; Councilman Grant Russel; and Don Rasmussen, law director.
On Tuesday, Mihalik said there has still been no word on the policy from the auditors.
City Safety Director Paul Schmelzer recommended contacting the auditors, and if they can’t or won’t issue an opinion, having the tax board review what’s already been drafted, and then take the matter before council.
“That may be a path through,” Schmelzer said.
Schmelzer said the tax administrator was given the authority by council after over-collections in 2007 threw off the city’s budget for years.