Orion adopts telecom tax

by Mindy Carls correspondent

On a 3-2 vote, Orion trustees approved a 4 percent simplified telecommunications tax starting July 1.

Voting in favor of the tax were Ryan Hancock, Bob Mitton and Steve Newman. Voting against were Mel Drucker and Neal Nelson. Trustee Mike Dunlap was absent.

Village President Jim Cooper urged adoption of the tax, which he said other communities have had for years.

“We’re entitled to it as much as any community,” he said.

The telecom tax will help make up for falling revenue from the utility tax, Cooper said. In 2018, the utility tax produced $84,000; in 2019, $79,000 and in 2020, $60,000.

Cooper said a 4 percent tax on a cellphone bill of $50 will be $2, with the village netting $1.50 and the state 50 cents. If village residents have a total of 800 landlines and cellphones, and pay $50 for each one, the tax will provide $1,200 each month in new revenue for the village and $14,400 each year.

He said a cellphone was not a necessity for most people.

The village president said he realized that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not a good time to impose a new tax. But he pointed out that the effects of the pandemic will improve substantially before the telecom tax takes effect.

Cooper said the new revenue could help with upcoming expenses, including Seventh Street renovation and 11th Avenue water main replacement.

Also, Cooper noted the village’s contribution to employee healthcare and retirement plans is up substantially, and the village would like to give employees an annual raise.

Nelson said he did not like linking the tax to employee compensation. People shouldn’t think the employees are asking for more money or wanting the tax.

Nelson said without the tax, the village had managed to build the general fund balance to a point where trustees could draw on the surplus for large projects.

Drucker said it was not a good time for the tax, especially for businesses.

Mitton said giving up a couple of soda pops each month would pay for the tax.

All residents will benefit from street projects, Newman said. The village would like to renovate Fifth Street, and it might have to wait while accumulating funds.

Nelson said he was not comfortable voting on the tax because he has no phones billed to his address. Cooper told him that as an elected official he should vote on what’s best for the village.