Townships get time on water taxes

By David Skolnick

The Youngstown mayor says the issue can get ‘ugly, nasty and expensive’ if necessary.

YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams wants to give Austintown and Boardman officials time to consider the city’s proposal to use its water system to charge an income tax to those working in the townships.

But how much time is the question.

“I’m not putting a deadline on it,” Williams said. “But the status quo is not an option. I’m hopeful productive talks will happen. Let’s avoid the nastiness.”

But it can get “ugly, nasty and expensive” if necessary, he said.

“There are consequences involved in every action and every step taken in this process,” Williams said. “Not just consequences for the townships, but consequences for the city of Youngstown as well. Therefore, our goal is to engage in discussions, negotiations and decision-making which could ultimately result in consequences which are of mutual benefit to all parties involved. Based on the apparent environment so far this seems like a lofty goal.”

Trustees from the two townships will meet Monday to talk with attorneys in closed session, and possibly with a representative from Aqua Ohio, a private water company.

Austintown Trustee Lisa Oles recently said township officials will take action before Youngstown has a chance to “launch their attack on us.” She also said, “We are not going to sit back and wait for Youngstown to strike.”

Perhaps a reasonable solution can’t happen, Williams said. “But I hope productive discussions will resolve this,” he said.

Austintown trustees have expressed concern that Youngstown would require businesses in the township on the city’s border to annex to keep their water.

The two townships have discussed incorporating to become cities or having Aqua Ohio provide water to prevent Youngstown from attempting to implement its proposal.

“There’s a million different options,” Williams said without giving any of them. “... I refuse to engage in the petty bickering that seems to be the hallmark of some of the opponents to regional economic cooperation.”

The city unveiled a joint economic development district [JEDD] study in March. The $100,000 study, commissioned in August 2006 by the city, claims $439 million would go to Youngstown and the two townships over a 20-year period. That amount would be realized through the creation of 3,750 jobs at new businesses on 750 acres in the townships, the study states.

The report, done by The PRM Group of Cleveland, calls for workers at every business in the two townships who get Youngstown water to be assessed a 2 percent city income tax. The townships could also assess their own 0.25 percent income tax on those same residents.

If the townships use that income tax for economic development, the city would agree to match that dollar amount.

The plan calls for the city to reduce its income tax from 2.75 percent to 2.25 percent for all who work in the city, including those in Austintown and Boardman.

Also, the city would cut in half its 40 percent surcharge on water to those in the townships.

Williams said the proposal is open to negotiations and the city could consider giving the townships a greater percentage of the income tax revenue.

Youngstown would guarantee it wouldn’t attempt to annex any land in the townships if the JEDD deals are finalized.

Boardman and Austintown trustees aren’t interested in the plan — saying they don’t see how it benefits the townships.

“This is not just about Youngstown,” Williams said. “We want true regional cooperation.”

Some trustees “have made their opinions clear since the day this concept was first broached,” he said. “We believe a discussion on economic development is appropriate and necessary. I’m not looking for a big nasty strike. I’m not getting into that fray. There’s a whole lot of people who agree with the city that this is long overdue.”

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