Ross adopts paving program

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Ross commissioners on Monday approved spending nearly $1 million on road paving, and tabled an agreement with a company to collect unpaid business taxes.

Gateway Engineers was authorized to prepare and advertise specifications for the $946,250 road paving program. Several commissioners said that they need to budget more in future years to make up for years when the program was deleted to balance the budget.

Commissioners also tabled an agreement with e-Collect PLUS LLC, to collect unpaid business privilege and mercantile taxes after some commissioners and business owners expressed concerns about turning that over to a for-profit company.  North Hills School District collects those taxes for Ross.

“Their business model is to make money. If they don't collect, they don't make money,” said Craig Linner, representing Ross Economic Development. “There is the potential of overly aggressive and insensitive collection methods.”

Mr. Linner added that giving e-Collect authority to audit the books of businesses is “like giving a third party a legal license for a witch hunt.”

Commissioner Grace Stanko, a business owner, said allowing a third party to audit a business’s books is an “invasion of privacy.”

Mr. Linner said Ross Economic Development is working to attract businesses to the township, and that the majority of business owners pay their taxes.

“To lump that majority, and alienate that majority because of a few can put a bad mark on Ross and make it difficult to get new businesses,” he said, adding that the economic development group is willing to work with the township to make sure businesses are aware of the taxes.

Hiring e-Collect was recommended last month by Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer, who said a private company would do a better job in collecting business privilege and mercantile taxes than the school district.

“They’ve done a really bad job of collecting it,” Mr. Shaffer said. “I’m willing to wait and see how the school board does but, so far, I’m not impressed.”

Commissioner Steve Korbel said the school district charges a 3 percent commission, which is then used for education. Private companies charge a much higher commission, between 15 and 25 percent, and the money does not stay in the community.

He said the school district increased its collection of business privilege taxes by 500 percent and mercantile taxes by 400 percent.

“I’m comfortable staying with them until there is an identifiable issue,” he said.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

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