WARREN City plans carefully for tax office changes

The mayor was hoping for more immediate action.
WARREN -- Lawmakers will weigh a host of options before restructuring the city income tax department.
And buying some time, they say, will give a panel of professionals time to make the right recommendations.
Councilman Bob Marchese, D-at large, said during Tuesday's finance committee meeting that community financial experts will likely need a few more weeks to gather information, so council will hold off voting tonight on related legislation.
Part time: Council agreed earlier this year to make the treasurer's position part time.
Incumbent treasurer Patricia Leon-Games was then ousted by newcomer John Taylor during the May primary. He takes over Jan. 1.
Changes were proposed after a state performance audit said the income tax department, under Leon-Games' authority, could have been collecting as much as $2.2 million more each year in income tax.
She was unavailable Tuesday but has maintained that her department did everything it could and that the audit was based, in part, on inaccurate information.
Proposed changes include establishing the full-time position of tax administrator.
Likely duties: Although duties have not been outlined, city officials have said the tax administrator would likely handle collections and the treasurer would be in charge of investments.
Officials have said employees from Leon-Games' office would work with the tax administrator.
Council also will decide whether to put the tax administrator under the authority of the finance department, the mayor or the newly created treasurer's office.
Under one of the panel's proposals, the tax administrator would fall under the city administration from September to January, when the treasurer's office would take responsibility.
Wanted action sooner: Mayor Hank Angelo expressed frustration, saying he had hoped council would restructure the department sooner.
"My concern is that the taxes are not being collected," he said, explaining Leon-Games' department could be much more aggressive with collections. "That's been a bone of contention since I took office in '96."
When the city was preparing in 1999 for budget cuts in 2000, Angelo suggested council privatize the income tax department and contract with the Regional Income Tax Authority, but council disagreed.
He's now recommending that the auditor's office be in charge of tax collection and the tax administrator. The treasurer would handle investments under his plan.
Angelo said lawmakers gave the treasurer authority to collect taxes and they should be able to rescind that so there can be a more immediate change in the way taxes are collected.
Time in mind: He urged the group to make timely decisions, because the hiring process could take a few months.
Marchese, finance committee chairman, said it's important that council and officials don't rush the process.
Council and the community panel should explore all options, he said, adding, "I see options as healthy."

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