By Frank Lewis
Just a couple of years after Portsmouth voters gave the city the okay to raise the income tax, the city may come calling again in response to the Auditor of State’s Office to show the city is attempting to move forward with a plan to keep them out of fiscal emergency status.
Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen and City Solicitor John Haas met with three representatives from the Auditor of State’s Office two weeks ago, and a very real threat to escalate the city’s fiscal status looms on the horizon if it doesn’t take several steps.
“They said, ‘you’re going to have to do something,’” Allen said the reps told him. “I don’t know what that is,” Allen responded. “People aren’t going to approve an income tax increase.” Allen said one of the reps responded - “You’ve got to show me you’re trying.”
Allen said he reiterated he does not believe another income tax increase would pass.
“It doesn’t matter,” the rep reportedly told Allen. “You have to do something or you’re going to go into fiscal emergency.”
Allen said he does not know what the city can do, but believes the people from the Auditor’s office want the city to put the tax increase on the ballot again whether he believes it could pass or not.
“They were pretty adamant,” Allen said. “This wasn’t a ‘feel good’ meeting.”
Allen said much of the discussion centered around the fact that the city had not fully implemented a five-year plan proposed by then-Mayor David Malone last year. He also acknowledged the city plans to put together a new five-year plan and implement it.
“They (Auditor of State) expressed some concern regarding the fact that we hadn’t followed that or implemented it,” Allen said. “I’m going to be preparing a response as to why we didn’t implement those actions and they’re expecting a new five-year recovery plan and we have known that.”
In order to comply with the Auditor of State’s Office’s request to see progress, City Council is likely to place another income tax increase on the ballot some time in the future.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.