Bridgeport residents question new income tax

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BRIDGEPORT, Ohio (WTRF) – Residents of Bridgeport had many questions about a new income tax for their elected council members.

Bridgeport Village Council passed an ordinance authorizing the new income tax to get the village out of fiscal emergency status with the state of Ohio. That declaration of fiscal emergency came after the village defaulted on loans owed to the state.

Although Village Council had scheduled this meeting for the finance committee, it ended up as a question-and-answer session concerning the new income tax which takes effect August 1. Many residents at the meeting had received notice from Ohio’s Regional Income Tax Agency to pay estimated income tax. They told the mayor RITA seemed confused about what advice to give residents.

Representatives from the Ohio Auditor of State’s office outlined the stark choices the council faces concerning spending. Robert A. Burlenski, the Chief Project Manager from Ohio Auditor of State’s Local Government Services, told those at the meeting flat out: the Village has to spend less than projected revenues during the emergency period.

“It was basically, comes down to this: You either gut your police department — and jeopardize the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens — or you find a stream of revenue that will generate between $300,000 – $350,000,” said Bridgeport Mayor David W. Smith. According to documents provided by the Ohio Auditor’s office, during 2018, the village spent $477,400 on the police department.

The recovery plan forecasts the new income tax will bring in $250,000 by 2021. Should all go as planned, the village of Bridgeport should come out of fiscal emergency by 2023.

“I am not a ‘tax guy’ — I don’t, I don’t like paying all the taxes — but it was a necessary measure that Council took under advisement,” Mayor Smith said, adding the declaration of a fiscal emergency and subsequent approval of a recovery plan by the village took place during open Council sessions.

At the meeting, Mayor Smith talked of the difficulty of attracting a Fiscal Officer for the village. During the discussion, the Mayor asked reporters to spread the news that job remains open, and those with an accounting background may submit a resume at the village offices to apply for the job.

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