The Findlay Tax Board has done the right thing, the most reasonable thing, by killing a policy that allows certain businesses and individuals to skip making estimated tax payments without penalty.
It’s still hard to comprehend how this city government practice existed for a decade and never had a written policy and procedure to guide it.
Finally, on Wednesday, city officials, including four of five members of the board, had the courage to halt a program that, while legal under Ohio law, is only being used in one place in the entire state — Findlay.
While allowing businesses and individuals with a history of tax overpayment to delay making quarterly tax payments so the city doesn’t have to make large refunds may have made sense 10 years ago, it was never intended to be a long-term program.
Findlay quite simply hasn’t needed it for years, and now has money in a reserve fund to write a check to those who paid too much.
The end comes after Mayor Christina Muryn and Auditor Jim Staschiak worked out a policy that would have been used had the board decided to keep the practice.
We applaud that cooperative effort, but one of keys to the board’s decision to axe deferrals may have been in the latest draft of the policy. One provision calls for the list of participants in the program to become public record, something that would have likely reduced the numbers of those taking part.
We suspect most companies or individuals wouldn’t want it to become public knowledge that they were among those not making estimated tax payments.
Government always seems to work better when it operates under a bright light. Regardless of the reasons, including any political ones, the board was correct to kill a bad public program.
Even though it won’t officially end until Dec. 31, we hope the tax board finalizes its work on policy rules in the event some future economic downturn would cause the mayor or city tax administrator to resurrect it. Guidelines should already be in place if there is a next time.
While the board’s decision doesn’t need City Council’s blessing, we’re encouraged Muryn sees the importance of improving communication within city government and has taken serious concerns within the community about the flawed tax policy and is addressing them.
It also speaks well that four council members were present at Wednesday’s tax board meeting. All council members have been advised of the development in a letter from the mayor, and will have an opportunity to weigh in on the development at their next meeting.
The public needs to be reassured that the city’s tax policies are fair and apply to all, not just to those who may hold influence on administrators and elected officials. The tax board took an important step to do just that. Council should follow suit by supporting the board’s action.