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Published: Tuesday, 12/18/2001

Marblehead petition will try to halt income tax


MARBLEHEAD - A former village clerk-treasurer plans to mount a petition drive for a November ballot referendum that would overturn a newly enacted income tax.

Nilene Imke, upset over the village council's action Thursday, said yesterday she will begin circulating her petitions this week, once she obtains a certified copy of the ordinance.

Council restored the 1 percent income tax, which voters defeated last month, after Mayor Steve Plottner said the money is needed to pay road resurfacing and infrastructure costs for the village of 745.

Ms. Imke, however, said the village has not provided information she says would show the need. She took issue with the method council used to enact the tax.

“I think they could have done it a better way,” Ms. Imke said. “What would be wrong with putting it on the ballot in May?”

The village has had a difficult time trying to enact a tax.

In November residents decisively repealed the income tax that council had approved as an emergency measure. Ms. Imke at the time expressed anger that the tax was approved without the customary three readings and without giving citizens a chance to vote on it before collections began.

In the general election of 2000, a ferry tax the village approved to raise money for tourist-related village expenses was narrowly defeated.

Thursday's action did not include an emergency clause. Council members also agreed to waive the three public readings and passed the tax on the first try.

The lack of an emergency clause means that once the petitions are filed, collections would be halted immediately, the former clerk-treasurer said.

The referendum will force the village to present its case for the money, Ms. Imke said.

JoAnn Friar, director of the Ottawa County board of elections, said signatures of 41 voters are needed to place the referendum on the November ballot. A certified copy of the ordinance must be included with each petition, she said.

That figure represents 10 percent of 407 Marblehead voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election.

Tax opponents have 30 days from the time council approved the tax to file their petitions with the Ottawa County board of elections. If approved, the petitions will effectively halt tax collections until the November election.

Mayor Plottner said the income tax is needed to prevent a fiscal crisis in the village before the end of 2002.

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