Tuesday, January 02, 2001

Local Digest


Online shoppers asked to pay tax

        COLUMBUS — This year's state income tax booklet will include a section asking Internet and catalog shoppers to pay up.

        For the first time, two pages of instructions will explain that Ohio has a tax that applies to out-of-state purchases on which no sales tax is paid.

        The tax, known as a use tax, has been in effect since 1936. Its rate is identical to the sales tax rate in any given county.

        Businesses generally have been good about paying use taxes, but until now, the state never put much effort into collecting from individuals.

        The growing popularity of online and catalog transactions, on which no sales tax is paid, made state officials look into how much Ohio was losing.

        A report by the Ohio Department of Taxation said such transactions were likely to cost state and local governments $211 million by June 30, 2002, unless collection procedures were changed.

        “It's not earth-shattering, but as the economy continues to tighten, Medicaid costs rise and school funding needs to be addressed, that $211 million becomes more significant every day,” said Ohio Tax Commissioner Thomas Zaino.

        “And I'd rather collect that $211 million than raise taxes in some other method.”

        Ohio's sales tax generated $6.2 billion last year — more than one-third of the $17.6 billion in tax dollars the state collected.

        State officials acknowledge that enforcing the tax policy change will be difficult.

        “We want to educate, not punish,” Mr. Zaino said. “I'm an optimist when it comes to taxpayers. When people know what the law is, people comply with the law.”
       

Firefighters injured in building collapse

               BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Five firefighters were injured, one seriously, when part of a building that houses a recycling center collapsed in a fire Monday night.

        One firefighter was being treated for shoulder and chest injuries and breathing difficulties at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo, officials said. His name was not released.

        Four other firefighters suffered minor injuries and were being treated at Wood County Hospital in Bowling Green.

        No other injuries were reported.

        The fire did extensive damage to the Pete Processors recycling center. The fire's cause was not immediately determined. Officials said some electrical remodeling work had recently been taking place in the building.
       

Cleveland tops list of cities' lawyer bills

               CLEVELAND — Although it ranks 26th in population, Cleveland pays more than any other U.S. city to hire private lawyers to conduct city business.

        Mayor Michael R. White said the $7.4 million spent on outside lawyers in 2000 was necessary to represent the city in matters such as construction of Cleveland Browns Stadium, airport expansion, the mayor's takeover of city schools and labor disputes.

        City Council members say the spending, up $5 million from 1999, is out of control and vow to use legislation or a charter amendment to stop the hiring of high-priced legal talent.

        Brian Rothenberg, spokesman for the mayor's office, said the tab for outside lawyers is appropriate, even though it accounts for nearly half of the $16 million the city spent on legal matters last year.

        Los Angeles, which has seven times Cleveland's population, was No. 2 in money spent on private lawyers. Los Angeles spent just 4 percent of its $70 million legal budget on private lawyers. Chicago, five times Cleveland's size, was third. Chicago spent 10 percent of its $40 million legal budget on outsiders.
       

Indiana settles suit over denial of funds

               FRANKLIN, Ind. — The state will pay $52,405 to a Franklin woman to settle claims that it unfairly denied her federal funds for her adoptive son's psychiatrists and tutors.

        Judy Fenner sought the financial help under the Adoption Assistance Program, which provides payments to adoptive parents of children with physical, emotional or mental disabilities.

        Ms. Fenner said the assistance never was offered to her when she adopted her son Mark in 1985.

        After learning of the benefits, she sought retroactive assistance through the Johnson County Office of Family and Children in April 1999.

        The office denied her claim, saying Ms. Fenner's son was no longer a minor and deeming her application untimely.

        An administrative law judge upheld Ms. Fenner's appeal, but she still did not receive any money, so she sued the state in August.
       

Amphitheater plan misses deadline

               ROSSFORD, Ohio — Officials in this Toledo suburb said in October that financing and management plans for a proposed amphitheater needed to have been in place by Monday if the structure was to be built for concerts in 2001.

        The date has passed with neither of those goals accomplished.

        The Rossford Arena Amphitheater Authority is still considering proposals from two firms interested in running the amphitheater. Authority officials have said that until one of those firms is hired, financing cannot be arranged.

        The agency is running out of time to get the structure built and acts booked. John Caponigro, a Bloomfield Hills, Mich., lawyer and consultant on the project, said prime booking season for major acts runs from mid-November to February.
       

Student newspaper financially sound

               TOLEDO — The student newspaper at the University of Toledo is operating successfully in its first semester without financial support from the school.

        “We aren't in the red. We are meeting expectations,” said Morgan Haeger, executive editor of the Independent Collegian and chairman of the Collegian Media Foundation's board of trustees. The nonprofit foundation was established in June to replace the university in governing the newspaper.

       



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