BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — As soon as Whitehouse Village Council voted on May 3 to revoke a .75-percent income tax credit, Larry Yunker promised to put a referendum on the ballot to have Ordinance 2-2022 repealed.
Whitehouse Citizens Referendum, a public group on Facebook, now has 233 members, and volunteers are canvassing neighborhoods and holding public meet-ups to allow registered voters who are village residents to sign a petition.
On May 15, volunteers Rami and Abbey Barazi and Dan Holman stood in the Whitehouse Park pavilion and welcomed the residents Bob Crowe rustled up from those in the Generals Ice Cream line or walking in the park.
Sheryl and Paul Favorite moved to the village from Sylvania last year.
“We love it here. It’s so beautiful and quiet,” Sheryl said.
The week after her accountant told her that Whitehouse had an income tax credit for residents who work in other communities, Sheryl – an electrical engineer who sometimes travels to work as a substitute teacher – said she learned about council’s vote to eliminate it. Sylvania offers full credit for those who travel for work, and that makes sense, she said.
According to information from the Regional Income Tax Authority (RITA), of the 2,846 Whitehouse residents who filed tax returns in 2020, 60 percent – or 1,695 – were eligible for the .75-percent credit. The village had, in 2020, an additional 1,881 taxpayers who are not residents. So of all the taxpayers, about 35 percent in total receive a credit.
Rami has argued that eliminating the credit disproportionately affects that small portion, forcing them to take on the burden of raising $588,000 a year for the village’s General Fund. He and several others have urged council to take another look at some of the many options it discussed earlier this spring, including a modest income tax hike.
Paul Favorite said he’d be in favor of such a move.
“I’m not trying to not pay taxes at all,” he said,
Daniel Lewandowski, who was out walking his dog and stopped to sign the petition, agreed. He and his wife both work in Toledo and pay 2.5 percent to the city on top of the 1.5 percent to the village. With the credit elimination, both would pay the full 4 percent in income taxes. A small tax increase would be more palatable than such a big cut to the credit – which is essentially a .75-percent increase, he said.
“I really believe they (village leaders) haven’t taken a good look at what they can cut. This is just the easy way out,” Lewandowski said. “I can’t go to my boss and say I want a 10-percent raise and just get it.”
Sheryl said she would like to see a more detailed explanation of why the village is in need of funds now, and what they would be used for. During the May 3 meeting, administrator Jordan Daugherty explained how unfunded mandates, cost-of-living increases and rising prices are impacting the village’s General Fund.
As the committee members go door to door to ask for signatures, those volunteering to canvass have spent just as much time explaining the situation and listening to comments, Holman said.
“Some of the residents say the village doesn’t need the money,” he said.
Without those funds, council members have said that cuts will be forthcoming.
According to the village charter, to put a referendum on the ballot requires the signatures of 20 percent of the number of voters in the last municipal election – or 202 signatures. By May 17, the group had over 200 but will turn in over 300 to be cautious, Yunker said. The signatures are due on Thursday, June 2.
Council still has an option of rescinding or amending the ordinance, according to the charter, said village solicitor Kevin Heban. If no action is taken by council and the citizens have enough signatures, the referendum will be placed on the November ballot, asking voters to remove the ordinance.