CRAIG BEACH Group wants voters to decide proposal for 1% income tax

The mayor says local residents could have commented on the tax at earlier meetings.
CRAIG BEACH -- A group of residents has petitioned village council to place a proposed 1-percent income tax on the ballot here.
The group, Citizens for Good Government, presented council with a petition containing the signatures of 81 village residents. The petition asked council to place the proposed tax on the ballot Nov. 6.
Council passed the controversial tax proposal by a 3-2 vote at an emergency meeting May 31. Readings of the proposal also took place at two special meetings in late May.
The tax was slated to take effect July 1. If the petition is certified by the Mahoning County Board of Elections, the tax would not take effect unless it is approved in the Nov. 6 election.
The public was not allowed to comment on the tax at the special meetings or the emergency meeting. Mayor Camille Gaia III said that no public comment period is required in special and emergency meetings.
Opposition: Lawrence Christopher, chairman of Citizens for Good Government, said the group objects to council's use of special meetings to pass the tax. He said the group feels the public should have been allowed to comment on the tax before it was passed.
"I don't believe that government should operate that way," Christopher said.
However, Gaia said local residents had the opportunity to express their opinions about the tax during regular council meetings in April and May. He said council discussed the tax at those meetings.
Gaia has said the village needs an income tax that will generate $70,000 annually to help pay for the police and street departments and village administration. The village receives most of the money for its operating budget from property taxes.
What happened: In 1998 council repealed a 1-percent income tax that generated about $90,000 each year. As a result, council laid off all nonelected employees except for the village solicitor.
Gaia said that without an income tax, the village will have a debt of about $25,000 at the end of the year. He added that most of the comments he has received about the tax have been positive.
"They realize they've got bills to pay," Gaia said.
Yet Christopher said he was deluged with phone calls from people who wanted to sign the petition.
He noted that Citizens for Good Government plans on campaigning against the tax, as the group believes it's not needed to pay for village services.
The petition is posted in village hall. It will be turned over to the board of elections for certification later this month.

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