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A 0.5 percent income tax credit for residents of Windham who work outside of town was narrowly repealed by the mayor's tie-breaking vote during Village Council's meeting Tuesday, despite facing opposition from residents in attendance.
Windham Mayor Robert Donham cast the deciding vote after council members Scott Garrett, Phil Snyder and Sheryl Prem voted in favor of the repeal, and members Deb Blewitt, Jena Miranda and Rachel Barrett voted against the measure.
The repeal of the credit comes after a failed November ballot measure to increase the village income tax by 0.5 percent. With the repeal in effect, residents who could apply for the 0.5 percent income tax credit when filing their 2012 taxes in April no longer will be able to do so.
Donham said repealing the tax credit was necessary in order to maintain the village's level of safety enforcement.
Donham told an audience of about 30 people that he'd rather repeal the credit than have an unsafe community. Windham has not filled two vacant full-time police officer positions and would have to lay off another two full-time and one part-time officers without additional income, he said.
Donham said Windham is taking other cost-saving measures including a proposed outsourcing of emergency dispatch and increasing employee health care contributions, but is struggling to make up for a $150,000 reduction in income provided by the state.
"I agree that it's not fair, but it's the best solution to the problem," he said.
Six residents spoke in opposition to repealing the tax credit, while none spoke in favor.
"If you do away with this tax credit, you're doing your voters a disservice," resident Dan Spaur said.
Resident Jim Moore, a former village mayor and council member, said the measure was rushed by being pressed for three readings in two months. He also questioned the legality of repealing the tax credit, which was approved by voters in 1995 in addition to a 0.5 income tax increase.
"I think you're making a mistake if you pass this repeal tonight," Moore said.
Donham said the removal of the tax credit wouldn't be effective until the April tax filing deadline, and could be reversed before then if found unlawful.
He added that if an income tax increase passes next year, he will propose reinstituting the tax credit.
"This isn't something I think anybody up here supports," Donham said. "We've done everything else that council has brought to the table and we're still short."
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Let's see, in 1995 they voted for a 0.5 percent increase and a 0.5 percent credit thinking that only those who couldn't vote on it would actually have to pay. Now they'll pay it too. The chickens came home to roost!
How can the community vote something down & then the council decides they don't like the vote & change it?? That doesn't sound legal to me.