Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Officials take issue with words of mayor
Trustees aren't pleased with comments they read in the newspaper.
AUSTINTOWN Austintown trustees and the township's fiscal officer are taking issue with comments Youngstown's mayor made last week about a water-for-income tax plan.
At a city finance committee meeting Wednesday, Mayor Jay Williams and some city council members said they want to clear up misconceptions that they want to annex Austintown and Boardman.
Township officials are wary of comments Williams has made concerning the formation of joint economic development districts.
In JEDDs, workers would pay the city's income tax, which is now 2.75 percent, the highest in the state. In exchange, the city could reduce or eliminate a 40-percent surcharge on water it supplies to customers in Austintown and parts of Boardman.
Supreme Court decision
Williams has said a 2006 Ohio Supreme Court decision would allow a city to annex properties that buy its water, and that might be an incentive to bring officials who aren't interested in his plan to the bargaining table.
That didn't go over well with the townships.
Boardman and Austintown are now considering buying water from Aqua Ohio, and Austintown is also exploring buying it from Niles.
Ownership of the waterlines that extend from the city into Austintown and Boardman is in question. A Mahoning County prosecutor's opinion says Youngstown owns them. But the townships are exploring other legal opinions.
Last week at their meeting, Youngstown officials said they want to hold public forums in the communities that buy city water so that they can educate those communities about the development plan. The plan for the forums and officials' comments, including this one from Williams: "Annexation was never our goal. We need to stop the fear-mongering and the misinformation," were reported in The Vindicator.
"I would remind the mayor and the paper that we were elected to represent the people of Austintown," said Austintown fiscal officer Mike Kurish.
Kurish said Williams should meet with officials in the townships, which he has not done.
"I found the article to be quite offensive and arrogant on the city's part," said Trustee Lisa Oles. "We don't need the mayor to come here to educate us on what JEDDs are."
"Speculation and innuendo are perpetuated because no one has said anything different," said Trustee David Ditzler.
Trustee Bo Pritchard said JEDDs are a bad idea if they are used to "grab taxes off existing jobs and operations." He said JEDDs should be used to develop new jobs.
Oles said she is sending a letter to Regional Chamber CEO Tom Humphries asking him how he feels about using JEDDs to impose income taxes on current businesses.
In other business, trustees passed new zoning regulations that aim to keep stream banks natural by protecting them from development.