By Jordan Cohen
A decision to outsource the city’s income-tax department or keep it in house could come by next Wednesday’s council meeting, Mayor Thomas Scarnecchia said Tuesday.
The mayor said he is waiting to see the results of the five-year financial forecast being compiled by the city’s state-appointed financial supervisors and city Auditor Giovanne Merlo.
“I’m still working on all the facts and figures, and it all depends on the forecast,” the mayor said after a brief meeting with the auditors. “What [the auditors] project remains to be seen.”
The mayor said he expects to render a decision “before the end of the month” if the forecast is not ready by the council meeting.
“I will do whatever is best for the city of Niles,” Scarnecchia said.
Ohio Auditor Dave Yost has strongly criticized the mayor in Vindicator interviews for not going along with the supervisors’ recommendation to outsource. The recommendation is based on the findings of the 2014 performance audit, which determined that the city could save $138,000 annually by outsourcing collections to the Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA).
Scarnecchia’s predecessor Ralph Infante had included outsourcing the department in his financial-recovery plan last December, but his projected annual savings of $43,000 were well below the figures contained in the 2014 audit.
Scarnecchia, however, revised the plan when he took office and eliminated the outsourcing provision.
At the time of the audit, Niles income-tax collections totaled $5.7 million, but interim Treasurer Janet Rizer-Jones has projected $7.1 million in collections this year. A spokesman for the auditor told The Vindicator that he did not expect the higher collection to significantly impact the projected savings by going with RITA.
The income-tax department has been reduced to two people due to the city’s fiscal emergency, but Rizer-Jones indicated she does not like the idea of turning collections over to RITA.
“I don’t want to see anything outsourced,” she told The Vindicator last week.
In the meantime, the fate of Rizer-Jones as interim treasurer will be decided by the city’s Democratic Precinct Committee this evening. Rizer-Jones and Thomas Harwood, a retired executive, are running to fill the unexpired term of Robert Swauger, who resigned in May.
The entire city council and state auditor regional liaison have strongly endorsed Rizer- Jones, who was appointed by Scarnecchia shortly after Swauger’s resignation.