Portage to pursue income tax
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Written by BY DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 20 January 2010 10:13
PORTAGE - Village council took a step toward putting a 1-percent income tax on the May ballot at Tuesday's meeting.
First readings of a resolution and ordinance were heard and a vote is expected at the Feb. 2 meeting.
The income tax is part of the village's five-year financial recovery plan. In April, the state put Portage into fiscal emergency.
As part of its recovery, the village eliminated a major expense by dissolving the police department and plans to increase revenue with the added tax.
But even the council president isn't on board with the 1-percent income tax.
"I will vote to put it on the ballot, but I will not support it," said Mike Brinkman after Tuesday's meeting. "I just don't believe that the timing is right."
He said a 1-percent income tax - which is already in effect in Portage - should be enough for a village this size without a police force. Council in January 2009 enacted a 1-percent income tax, which is allowed without a vote.
Clerk-Treasurer Bruce Shepherd reported Tuesday that the Regional Income Tax Agency had collected $32,000 in income tax for Portage in 2009. While that is a little more than half of the $60,000 the tax is expected to generate annually, the number is more than what was expected.
It takes about three years to fully collect an income tax, Shepherd said.
The RITA charged $976 to collect the income tax, which the clerk said is a bargain.
The latest financial reports, from December, had Portage even deeper in debt than expected. Belinda Miller, financial supervisor for the state auditor's office, reported the deficit in the general fund grew to $162,000. Earlier indications were the general fund deficit would be about $128,000.
Still Mayor Mark Wolford hopes the village's recovery plan could be reviewed if expenses are dramatically down these first few months of the year.
For example, he said he wanted snow removal expenses for this season budgeted at $4,000. The state put it at $7,000, and Wolford said they are no where near that so far, with the mild weather.
There have been no discussions about whether council could try to put the tax on an August or November ballot, if it fails on May 4, Wolford said.
If the income tax fails, the village's future could be in doubt, with Portage possibly being divided among two townships.
"Only time will tell. You have to have patience and hope," the mayor said.