Pataskala City Council addressed two tax issues during its April 18 meeting.

Pataskala City Council addressed two tax issues during its April 18 meeting.

The issues were the potential for the Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA) to issue subpoenas to noncomplying residents who fail to file and pay the new city income tax and the application of the city's joint economic-development district (JEDD) income tax to agricultural activity.

City finance director Jason Carr asked council to approve a resolution that would allow RITA to enforce tax compliance.

Council member Bernie Brush said he was concerned that RITA might be heavy-handed in enforcement but Carr said the city of Pataskala would maintain its supervisory authority over collections.

"It's our responsibility as a city to monitor what they are doing," Carr said. "If we at any time feel they are abusing their power, we have the right to step in, because they are part of the internal controls of our city. It's no different than if we had our own income-tax department."

The resolution approved April 18 would allow RITA to deduct costs of the subpoena program from tax collections.

In other business, city administrator Tim Boland said the board for the 520-acre JEDD between Broad Street and U.S. Route 40 had received a reply from the Ohio Attorney General's office on the question whether agricultural activity was taxable under the JEDD.

Ohio law allows local governments, including townships, counties and municipalities, to create development districts in which income taxes may be applied and the money spent on development and general government activities. A 1.75-percent income tax applies to employees of businesses expected to be established in the JEDD.

Currently, the land in the JEDD is entirely owned by farmer Howard Emswiler, who is also a member of the JEDD board. When the JEDD agreement was originally entered, the parties were focused on future development and the tax revenue that would be generated and did not address the fact that the land currently has agricultural activity.

Boland said the attorney general concluded that the parties that formed the JEDD - Harrison Township, Pataskala, Newark and Licking County - had the power to include or exclude farm income, either in the original agreement or in a subsequent amendment.

"It appears, per the opinion of the attorney general, that the JEDD board may not exempt agriculture from the JEDD income tax but that it is the purview of the JEDD's contracting parties to do so," Boland said. "Harrison, the city of Newark, the city and Licking County could have initially exempted that use. That would have been one way of addressing the issue. Or after the fact, the parties could consider this type of use to be exempt. But as we stand right now, the JEDD board does not have the power to exempt agricultural uses."