By Jeff Gallatin
Mayor Debbie Sutherland believes she will make her presence count when it comes to any changes in the current municipal income tax collection system.
Sutherland is a northern Ohio representative on a panel put together by state Rep. Cheryl L. Grossman, R-23, for the Ohio House Ways and Means Committee to put together proposed legislation for changing the income tax collection system.
“There are other past and present governmental officials, CPAs and people with knowledge of taxes and municipal income taxes and what they involve,” Sutherland said. “We’re going to be working on how to write any proposed legislation which would affect the municipal income tax collection system.”
When Gov. John Kasich discussed several months ago putting together plans for having the state of Ohio take over collection of municipal income tax in a centralized format, many mayors and municipal officials around the state complained, with complaints ranging from cities losing control of the process to cities losing income from the collections. Sutherland was one of the more vocal critics, noting cities were already losing revenue from Kasich’s administration cutting the local government fund contributions to cities and phasing out the estate tax.
Sutherland said Friday her concerns remain and that she will take them into her work on the committee.
“Cities have already lost enough revenue to changes from the state,” she said. “We really can’t afford to lose any more of it. I’ll make sure that point is understood when we’re working on the drafts.”
Sutherland, who is a former president of the Cuyahoga County Mayors and Managers Association and remains active for the group in activities before the state legislature and administration, said many association members are concerned as well.
“I’m pleased to be representing Cuyahoga County, and I’ll be sharing its members’ ideas and concerns as part of the work,” she said.
In addition to the concerns about income, Sutherland noted that the panel will also be incorporating thoughts about streamlining the municipal income tax collection process for businesses.
“We will be working on finding ways to make the income tax process easier for businesses to deal with,” Sutherland said. “I’d certainly agree that there are ways we can make it better for businesses.”
She said the panel will look at different subjects pertaining to income tax handling for businesses, such as how long an employee should work in the city before income tax is collected.
“It would affect workers such as construction and other seasonal or other nonpermanent workers,” she said.
Other officials see Sutherland’s involvement with the tax group as a plus.
“It’s great to have her not only representing Cuyahoga County, but our city as well,” said Mike Young, chairman of Bay Village City Council’s Finance Committee.
Young said it’s important to have someone with Sutherland’s skills and background making sure the viewpoints of Cuyahoga County cities are taken into account.
“She’s very knowledgeable and will represent us well,” he said.
Sutherland said there is no specific timetable, but said officials hope to have possible draft legislation within a few months.